The Mitre 10 Cup served up another thriller tonight, this time at Westpac Stadium as home side Wellington beat Canterbury 23-22.
It was the dance of the desperate for the two traditionally powerful unions, with both heading into the match winless so far this season. For the first 20 minutes it looked like it might stay that way, as a litany of errors from both teams making it difficult to envisage either scoring.
Canterbury fullback Josh McKay finally broke the line after a nice offload by Luke Whitelock. Brett Cameron added the extras, but shortly after Wellington enjoyed a long period of possession and territory.
Though they butchered a number of opportunities in the Canterbury 22, the home side were finally rewarded with a fantastic try to Vince Aso. He scored after a slick break and flick pass from fellow winger Pepesana Patafilo. That closed the gap up to 10-8 at the break, and Wellington’s strong momentum carried on after the teams started the second half.
Captain Du’Plessis Kirifi was well-rewarded with a try after 46 minutes, through a nice chip and chase by Jackson Garden-Bachop. Then big Alex Fidow smashed over only three minutes later to give Wellington a 10-point cushion, which was crucially extended to 13 when Garden-Bachop nailed a penalty after 58 minutes.
Canterbury then launched a dramatic comeback, first scoring out wide through big lock Mitchell Dunshea. Brett Cameron couldn’t convert, but was on target shortly after when Oli Jager smashed over from a lineout drive. This made the difference only one point, but Wellington hung on to claim a dramatic victory.
One big name missing from the win was All Black blindside Vaea Fifita, who was scratched from the Wellington lineup just prior to kickoff. It’s done his World Cup hopes no good at all, with the squad to travel to Japan named on Wednesday.
Wellington 23 (V Aso, A Fidow, D Kirifi tries; J Garden-Bachop 2 pen, con)
Canterbury 22 (J McKay, M Dunshea, O Jager tries; B Cameron 2 con, pen)