After five successive defeats, Manawatu finally burst to life against Wellington in Palmerston North – upsetting the Lions 36-24.
After five successive defeats in the ITM Cup, Manawatu finally burst to life against Wellington in Palmerston North on Saturday – upsetting the Lions 36-24.
The hosts were the better team on the day, showing greater urgency, accuracy and purpose against a Wellington combination found wanting in all departments.
The Lions were left to rue ill-disipline and handling errrors against a passionate and committed Turbos side who led 14-12 at half-time and kept their noses in front throughout the second half.
In a tense finish, the Lions scored a late try to close the deficit to within five points and pressed hard at the death for a match winner. But Manawatu secured their victory with the last act of the game with a runaway intercept try to replacement midfielder Asalei Tikoirotuma.
Earlier, the Lions had outscored the Turbos two tries to one in the opening 40 minutes, but three penalties to Manawatu pivot Isaac Thompson put them in front at the break.
Wellington lock Jeremy Thrush thwarted the first scoring opportunity of the match with a try -saving tackle on the line on his opposite Michael Fitzgerald after a break in the midfield by Francis Bryant.
The home side were awarded a 5m scrum and from the next play- former Wellington player Shannon Paku dived in to score a try inside the right hand corner. Thompson missed the conversion but the home side led 5-0 inside as many minutes.
Manawatu continued to probe inside Lions territory over the next 10 minutes and were rewarded with a Thompson penalty that extended the lead to 8-0.
The Lions rumbled forward from an attacking scrum, won a penalty, took a quick-tap and debutant centre Tajhon Mailata flashed over for a try in reply. Wellington fly-half Fa'atonu Fili couldn't bring his conversion around between the poles and the score stood at 8-5 with a quarter of the game played.
After missing an ambitious long-range penalty, Thompson kicked one from in front to extend the lead to 11-7 after 26 minutes.
The Lions scored next and hit the lead for the first time with a great chasing try to wing Alipati Leiua, following up a kick ahead by Shaun Treeby and regathering a bouncing ball off the hands of Paku to cross untouched. Fili's conversion extended the lead to 12-11.
Manawatu regained the lead with Thompson's third penalty a minute out from half-time.
Down to 14 players early in the second half, with flanker Scott Fuglistaller sin-binned for repeated team infringements, the Lions conceded a second try to the home side to centre Hadleigh Parkes who stormed through to score in a determined run to the line. Thompson added the extras for a 10-point lead.
Manawatu supporters thought their team were in again when wing Lote Raikabula intercepted a Lions pass near halfway and set sail for the try-line. But he was called back for being offside and Fili lined up an unsuccessful long-range penalty.
Tubos centre Francis Bryant busted the line and Raikabula continued the forward momentum inside the Lions' 22 to set up another Turbos try out wide to lock Fraser Stone, putting them further ahead at 26-13 after 60 minutes.
The Lions remained patient and after a concerted build-up by the forwards, wing Julian Savea scored his sixth try of the competition, bursting through a ruck from close range. Fili added the extras to close the gap to a seven-point margin with 15 minutes on the clock.
A mistake at the back led to a further Manawatu penalty chance and Thompson kicked the three points to re-extend their lead to 29-19 after 72 minutes.
With the clock fast winding down, Wellington counter-attacked through Treeby up the grandstand touchline. The centre drew the last defender and passed inside to Mailata who scored his second and Wellington's bonus-point try. With just two minutes remaining, the score was now 29-24 to Manawatu.
Desperate for a full-time clincher, the Lions attacked from halfway, but replacement Manawatu player Asalei Tikoirotuma intercepted a pass and scampered away to seal Manawatu's first win of the 2010 ITM Cup and their first domestic championship victory over Wellington in 28 years and 11 outings!
Tries: Paku, Parkes, Stone, Tikoirotuma
Cons: Thompson, Clare
Pens: Thompson 4
Tries: Mailata 2, Leiua, Savea
Cons: Fili 2
Referee: Vinny Munro