Winning margin flatters Wellington
October 11, 2008
Tempers boil over during the clash at the Wetpac Stadium in Wellington
© Getty Images
Wellington booked themselves a not-entirely convincing berth in the Air NZ Cup semi-finals with a 50-30 quarter-final win over Taranaki here today.
A never-say-die Taranaki kept fighting right to the last whistle, and with less than 10 minutes to go were well in the hunt at 30-36 down. But tries to Tamati Ellison and Thomas Waldrom in the last five minutes secured the Lions a somewhat flattering win, and a home semifinal next week.
It took barely six minutes for Wellington to open their account. Loosehead prop John Schwalger's initial grounding was deemed inconclusive by the third match offical but Wellington moved the ball wide quickly from the resulting scrum. Ma'a Nonu's cut-out pass left Cory Jane in space, and the fullback strolled over out wide to give Wellington an early 7-0 lead after Piri Weepu knocked over the tricky conversion.
However, Taranaki replied almost immediately through second five-eighth Jayden Hayward, who sliced through some indifferent Wellington midfield defence and ran 30 metres for the try. Willie Ripia's conversion was followed midway through the half with a penalty to give Taranaki a brief 10-7 lead before Wellington tied the scores again with another penalty.
With flanker Scott Fuglistaller sidelined after a nasty-looking shoulder injury at 18 minutes, Wellington were boosted by the return of All Blacks star Rodney So'oialo, with Chris Masoe moving to the openside flank. Jane restored Wellington's lead after 26 minutes when he crossed after linking with halfback Albie Matthewson, who made the initial break from a scrum just inside the Wellington half.
Weepu's conversion left Wellington with a slightly more respectable 17-10 scoreline, which was further extended soon after as some good work from Hosea Gear left lock Ross Filipo in space on the left wing. Filipo unloaded to Ma'a Nonu who dotted down in the corner to give Wellington a 22-13 halftime lead.
Taranaki were nearly rewarded early in the second spell for some concerted pressure on the Wellington line, with replays of the grounding proving inconclusive after winger Paul Perez dived over in the corner. Referee Bryce Lawrence went back to an earlier infringement and Ripia duly slotted the penalty to narrow the Wellington lead to six.
But winger Hosea Gear extended the margin soon when he followed up on a clever kick through from Weepu just outside the 22, and scored between the posts for his 12th try of the season. However, Taranaki refused to give up and excellent work at the breakdown from flanker Scott Waldrom coupled with quick hands through the backline saw Perez touch down in the corner after 55 minutes.
Ripia sunk the conversion from out wide, and Taranaki were back in the game at 23-29 down with 20 minutes to go. Five minutes after replacing Nonu, Tane Tu'ipulotu featured with some excellent work down the right wing to set up Filipo for the try, which Weepu converted to give Wellington a 36-23 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
But Perez crossed again to narrow Wellington's lead to 36-30, leaving Taranaki with a sniff of victory and everything to play for. Both teams survived the last 10 minutes with 14 players after Masoe and Nemia Soqeta were sinbinned after exchanging blows, and although Wellington worked hard to maintain possession and cross twice for late tries, their winning margin was deceptively flattering.
Result of an Air NZ Cup rugby quarter-final here today:-
Wellington 50 ( Cory Jane 2, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Ross Filipo, Tamati Ellison, Thomas Waldrom tries; Piri Weepu 6 con, pen) Taranaki 30 ( Paul Perez 2, Jayden Hayward tries; Willie Ripia 3 con, 3 pen). Halftime: 22-13
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