Air New Zealand Cup
Tasman run Wellington close
September 27, 2008
Wellington started at almost full strength, with the only change from last weekend's shield-winning match against Auckland coming at tighthead prop, where Tim Fairbrother replaced John Schwalger, who suffered a recurrence of a shoulder injury.
But a resolute Tasman, celebrating their stay of execution from top level provincial rugby after yesterday's NZRU decision, played with more cohesion than Wellington for much of the game.
First blood went to Wellington however, with Daniel Kirkpatrick knocking over a penalty right out in front after six minutes to give the shield-holders a short-held lead.
First five-eighth Miah Nikora replied in kind for Tasman three minutes later, and the scores remained locked until five minutes from the halftime whistle when a second Nikora penalty gave the Makos a surprising 6-3 lead at the break.
Nothing seemed to go right for the Lions in the first half - lineout throws weren't straight, passes went astray, knock-ons abounded and tackles were missed.
Tasman made the most of the conditions, playing with a strong wind at their backs, and enjoyed a 75 percent territorial advantage. Their ball retention was vastly superior to Wellington's, and they missed only three tackles in the entire half.
Grim-looking Wellington coach Jamie Joseph rang the changes at the break, bringing in Albie Matthewson at halfback and moving Piri Weepu out to first five-eighth for Kirkpatrick in a bid to kick-start Wellington's faltering backline.
The move paid dividends 15 minutes into the second half, shortly after Weepu tied the scores with a well-struck penalty, the ball moving crisply along the backline for winger Hosea Gear to cross for his 11th try of the season.
Weepu missed the conversion, but Wellington looked more assured at 11-6 in front until Tasman halfback Kahn Fotuali'i squirrelled across for the try and captain Andrew Goodman converted to give Tasman a 13-11 lead with little more than 10 minutes to go.
But Weepu knocked over another penalty at 72 minutes after Fotuali'i was sinbinned, Wellington captain Jeremy Thrush crashed over to score soon after and, with the conversion, Wellington looked more comfortable at 21-13 ahead.
Thomas Waldrom, back on at No 8 after Victor Vito suffered a shoulder injury midway through the second half, put the matter beyond doubt right on 80 minutes with Wellington's third try.
With both teams seeking a bonus point, the ball was kept in play almost five minutes after the final siren, and Tasman came out on top with a late try - and conversion - to James Marshall to secure the extra point.
Wellington 26 (3) Tries: Gear, Thrush, Waldrom Cons: Weepu Pens: Kirkpatrick, Weepu (2)
Tasman 20 (6) Tries: Fotuali'i, Marshall Cons: Marshall (2) Pens: Nikora (2)
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