Wellington vs Otago
A stirring second half comeback couldn’t stop the Wellington Lions losing 44-21 to Mitre 10 Cup Championship pace-setters Otago at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The home side came out firing to pile on four converted tries in the first half to lead 28-0 at halftime as the Lions struggled to come to grips with the new breakdown laws.
On the positive side Wellington awoke in the second half to score three converted tries of their own to wing Wes Goosen, second five Shaun Treeby and outstanding centre Matt Proctor, while young halfback TJ Va’a made his Lions debut at halfback.
The visitor’s comeback was good enough to get them within striking distance at 35-21 with 15 minutes to play, but the clock was against them and a string of late penalties saw the home side close out the match with three penalties.
It was a disappointing result for the Lions who were coming off a 36-26 first up win over Hawke’s Bay, but credit has to go to Otago, who followed up a big first up win over Southland with another performance full of attacking intent.
Proctor was the pick of the Wellington team as he continually breached the Otago defence and his individual second half try was one of many highlights for the Oriental-Rongotai back.
No 8 Vaea Fifita was dynamic with ball in hand, Poneke replacement lock Isaia Walker-Leawere was made a big impact with ball in hand during the second half, while Treeby had some nice touches too.
Head coach Earl Va’a will lament poor ball retention and the string of penalties his side conceded for leaving their feet while cleaning out the defence during the first half.
The Lions created enough opportunities to win the match, but lacked the polish to capitalise.
Va’a can also be pleased his young side didn’t give up and will be confident they can make the necessary adjustments before the team’s first home match of the season against North Harbour at Westpac Stadium on Saturday, September 3.
The Lions were their own worst enemies in the first half and Otago capitalised on a poor chase line to score the first try of the match to centre Matt Faddes after just nine minutes.
Lock Tom Franklin was next to score after a lineout drive, followed by hooker Tom Anderson-Heather a few minutes later in similar circumstances as Otago took advantage of penalties and turnovers to go up 21-0 in quick time.
The lead became an imposing 28-0 when wing Jack Wilson intercepted a hopeful Goosen speculator to close out the first half scoring.
Goosen made up for his error shortly after the break after some skilful interplay from his pack including a behind the back pass from openside Greg Foe to get the visitor’s on the board.
However, Otago fullback Michael Collins quickly responded by outflanking the Wellington backline to run in for a well worked set piece try from a midfield scrum and it was 35-7.
The Lions finally awoke when fullback Peter Umaga-Jensen sparked a counter attack from his own goal line. Most of the Wellington team were involved as play swept down field, Fifita being the main player before Treeby finished off the try of the match under the posts.
Proctor was next in with 15 minutes to go when he slipped outside the defence, then weaved his way past the fullback and cover to give his side a sniff at 35-21.
Unfortunately the clock was working against the Lions and two penalties to Otago first five Fletcher Smith and one to replacement Scott Eade closed out the match.
Wellington 21 (Wes Goosen, Shaun Treeby, Matt Proctor tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 con)Otago 44 (Matt Faddes, Tom Franklin, Tom Anderson-Heather, Jack Wilson, Michael Collins tries, Fletcher Smith 5 con, 2 pen, Scott Eade pen). HT: 28-0 (Otago)