Wellington vs Manawatu
A four-try losing bonus point has been enough to push the Wellington Lions to the top of the Mitre 10 Cup Championship ladder despite a 50-28 loss to the Manawatu Turbos in Palmerston North.
After a short five day turnaround from their match against Southland, the Lions were well of their best on a wet Central Energy Trust Stadium field where they conceded eight tries to the home team.
The Turbos were deserved winners with blindside flanker Antonio Kirikiri the main beneficiary of their dominance with four tries.
The saving grace for the Lions was that they managed four tries as a team with Wes Goosen, Hoani Matenga, Jason Woodward and Galu Taufele all crossing the line to seal a bonus point that saw their team draw level on points with Championship leaders Otago.
Wellington holds top spot with two matches to play, against Taranaki at Westpac Stadium on Sunday, and Waikato in the final round at the same venue, due to superior points differential.
The Turbos played as though they had more on the line in Palmerston North where they were fighting to stay in the playoff hunt.
Manawatu led early through a try to centre Jason Emery, but after 15 minutes it was Wellington in the lead thanks to a quick tap from captain Brad Shields which caught the defence napping and sent wing Wes Goosen over for a 7-5 lead.
Manawatu were up Up 17-7 at halftime and came out firing after the break with tries to Kirikiri and prop Chris Eves as their set piece asserted its dominance and the score ballooned out to 29-7.
Wellington coach Earl Va’a emptied his bench early and the ball carrying of prop Alex Fidow and hooker Asafo Aumua added some impetus up the middle of the park.
Hoani Matenga was one of the Lions best on the night and closed the gap to 29-14 on the 53 minute mark.
Fidow’s off load opened space for Woodward out wide and the right wing finished brilliantly from long range to provide a glimmer of hope at 36-21, but by the time Taufale crashed over after a sustained forward effort the result had been well and truly determined.
Manawatu’s 50 points were the most they have scored against Wellington since the unions began playing in 1887, while the Lions have now not beaten the Turbos since 2013.
Wellington will not have long to lick their wounds with a big match against Taranaki at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Manawatu 50 (Jason Emery 2, Antonio Kiri Kiri 4, Chris Eves, Callum Gibbins tries, Otere Black 5 con) Wellington 28 (Wes Goosen, Hoani Matenga, Jason Woodward, Galu Taufele tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 4 con). HT: 17-7