Late penalty goal secures Wellington win

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Sunday, October 1, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The win ensured Wellington will be top qualifier in the Championship 16 points ahead of Otago and Manawatu on 21 points with Northland fourth on 20.
The score was close throughout and when Otago levelled at 24-24 with 16 minutes left the stage was set for a thrilling finish. The sides didn't disappoint and Otago worked hard, even after the final whistle to push for the win but in the end the failure to throw straight to the last lineout resulted in their challenge ending.

Wellington looked to make the perfect start with their first scoring opportunity executed when first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop at first receiver off a ruck fed an inside ball to prop Alex Fidow who, although 25m out from the line, produced the perfect run to utilise his speed to score.

Otago struggled to make the most of their chances, three times losing lineout ball and twice seeing fullback Fletcher Smith get his alignment wrong in making downfield kicks. They did secure a second penalty goal to Smith, but once Wellington got back into the Otago quarter there was an efficiency that had been lacking for attacking opportunities.

It came from a lineout maul in the 26th minute where painstaking build-up through the forwards brought its reward when halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara threw the ball to blindside wing Ben Lam who was untroubled to score in the corner.

Otago had better fortune in the 30th minute when from a scrum halfback Jonathan Ruru gave wing Latu Vaeno a chance to break down the sideline. Vaeno through an inside pass but it deflected off two out-stretched Wellington arms and Ruru grabbed the uncontrolled ball to score.

Two early second half penalty goals took Otago out to a 17-10 lead and Wellington were struggling with their accuracy and, ironically it was a poor pass by first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop that created an unlikely chance. Otago intercepted the pass but in attempting a chip into the box Ruru had his kick charged down and Lam took the ball, stepped his marker and then headed him in a race for the line.

Two minutes later replacement back Billy Proctor provided the impetus which allowed centre Thomas Umaga-Jensen to make a thrilling run, stepping off either foot and cork-screwing before passing back to Hauiti-Parapara. He thought he could make the line but was grassed just short and from the ruck wing Julian Savea joined the line outside Garden-Bachop and scored.

However, Otago refused to lie down and from a turnover on the Wellington 22m area, centre Sio Tomkinson put a kick through to the Wellington goal-line. Lam turned to chase but found replacement wing Vilimoni Koroi using his blistering speed to sneak past him, win the bounce and score to level the scores.

Scorers: Wellington 27 (Alex Fidow, Ben Lam 2, Julian Savea tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, pen) Otago 24 (Jonathan Ruru, Vilimoni Koroi tries; Fletcher Smith con, 4 pen). HT: 10-11