Wellington vs Counties Manakau
Jackson Garden-Bachop has done it again.
A week after kicking a Wellington record seven penalties against North Harbour, the Lions first five has kicked a match winning last second penalty to help his side edge Counties-Manukau 28-27 in Pukekohe.
Garden-Bachop’s 48-metre match winner saw the Lions win the inaugural Jonah Tali Lomu Memorial Trophy in fittingly spectacular fashion at ECOLight Stadium.
The win also provided a valuable four competition points as Wellington eased into second position on the Mitre 10 Cup Championship ladder.
Lions head coach Earl Va’a will know his players still have plenty to work on, but he’ll also know his squad is one full of heart after they dug deep to keep themselves in the contest.
Wellington trailed Counties-Manukau for much of the match and made too many errors, but never stopped giving anything less than 100 per cent and got the ultimate reward for their persistence when Garden-Bachop stepped up to the mark in injury time.
“I had to get the game winner because I was missing all the easy ones,” he said after missing several easier kicks earlier in the match. “When there is no wind I can get it from 50 metres in front, so I was confident if I went through my processes I could get it and it paid off.”
CAPTION: Jackson Garden-Bachop reacts after kicking the winning penalty against Counties-Manukau. PHOTO: Dave Lintott Photography
The first five gave an honest and humble account of a match that at times looked out of reach for the visitors.
“They [Counties] played a lot more quality rugby than us, so we probably got lucky, we made a lot of mistakes and were a little ill-disciplined and made it easy for them to get into our half and get points. But an ugly win is better than a pretty loss, so we’ll take it.”
The truth was Wellington simply refused to give up after trailing 17-11 at halftime, then 27-18 with less than 15 minutes to play.
It was Garden-Bachop who sparked the comeback when he finished off a brilliant Lions team effort to close the score to 27-25 with 10 minutes to play.
The 100 metre sweeping movement saw most of the Lions team handle the ball including several touches from inspirational skipper Brad Shields.
Counties-Manukau enjoyed plenty of possession in the final stages, but a handy missed penalty from first five Piers Francis, then a knock on near the Lions try line provided an opening.
Wellington swung the ball wide from behind their goal line, and strung together enough phases to push up past halfway where Counties hooker Hika Elliott was penalised and Garden-Bachop did the rest.
Counties-Manukau had built their lead after Wellington lock Isaia Walker-Leawere was sinbinned for not rolling away in the first half with his side up 8-3 following an early try to hooker Leni Apisai.
Wellington blindside Vaea Fifita showed off his freakish athletic ability when he literally hurdled Francis down the touch line, but Counties took full advantage of their extra man with two tries to fullback Luteru Laulala in the 29th and 37th minutes giving them the lead at halftime.
Apisai grabbed his second try after another good lineout drive after the break, but a Francis penalty and a bullocking try to prop Kalolo Tuiloma had Counties leading 27-18 before the Lions gutsy comeback.
Scorers: Counties Manukau 27 (Luteru Laulala 2, Kalolo Tuiloma tries; Piers Francis 3 con, 2 pen) Wellington 28 (Leni Apisai 2, Jackson Garden-Bachop tries; Garden-Bachop 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 17-11
CAPTION: The Counties-Manukau Steelers and Wellington Lions come together after the inaugural Jonah Tali Lomu Memorial Trophy in Pukekohe. PHOTO: Dave Lintott Photography