Lions win epic final to win Championship

27 October 2017

FRIDAY 27 October 2017

Wellington's 17 year wait for a provincial rugby title has ended in dramatic fashion at Westpac Stadium.

Epic was the only way to describe a final that was tied at 40-all at fulltime and saw 16 tries scored by the time the two teams had battled each other to a standstill after 20 minutes of extra time.

By the time the final whistle sounded the Lions were 59-45 winners and Mitre 10 Cup Championship winners.

More importantly for the union Wellington gained promotion back to the Premiership which they had dropped out of in 2014 to endure three seasons of frustration.

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The Wellington union's tag line for the final series was Restore The Pride and under first year head coach Chris Gibbes, the Lions did just that in 2017.

They eclipsed the previous Wellington record for most tries in a season (62 set in 2008) to finish the year with an incredible 74 tries from 12 matches and lost just once, to Tasman during the regular season.

Premiership opponents Canterbury, Waikato and Taranaki were all dispatched along the way by a side that unearthed young talent in front rowers Asafo Aumua and Alex Telea, and developed club players like Will Mangos and Mateaki Kafatolu to the point they were among the team's best in the final.

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The final will be talked about for years. It produced one thrilling moment after another. Jackson Garden-Bachop produced another outstanding performance, but could not nail the 40 metre kick after fulltime and the match hurtled into overtime.

Mangos played all 100 minutes, while Kafatolu was perhaps shaded only by his skipper Brad Shields who was Wellington's man of the match.

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There were plenty of heroes for the Lions in front of a lively crowd of more than 8,000 with prop Tolu Fahamokioa scoring a popular double, two years after being part of the Hawke's Bay team who beat Wellington in the same match in Napier.

Senior wing Julian Savea was the man of the moment as he crashed through the Bay of Plenty defence in overtime to seal the result with a try under the posts that brought the crowd to its feet.

Sam Lousi was immense in the second row, Alex Fidow scored a decisive try and young hooker Sitiveni Paongo played a key role off the bench in tandem with openside Du'Plessis Kirifi.

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It would be remiss not to mention Bay of Plenty who played a massive part in making the match so memorable. They fought back every time Wellington appeared to be easing away and only in overtime did they finally run out of legs.

Scorers

Wellington 59 (Tolu Fahamokioa 2, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Sam Lousi, Brad Shields, Alex Fidow, Wes Goosen, Sitiveni Paongo, Julian Savea tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 pen, 4 con) Bay of Plenty 45 (Joe Webber 2, Luke Campbell, Tyler Ardron, Jesse Parete, Terrence Hepetema, Mitchell Karpik tries; Mike Delany 5 con). HT: 20-14. FT: 40-40.

59 45 FULL TIME