Lions leap into semis

Saturday, October 11, 2008    

Wellington came out of the blocks firing, and launched into an early lead with a well converted try by fullback Cory Jane after seven minutes. Piri Weepu added the extras taking the score to 7-0.

However, Taranaki wasn't too bothered by the early setback, and struck back itself. A fine run by Jayden Hayward lead to his side's first try, as he stepped his way through the Wellington defence. The accurate boot of Willie Ripia added the conversion, squaring the scores at 7-7.

Taranaki then took the lead, as Ma'a Nonu was guilty of being caught offside. Ripia's impressive kicking form continued as he added the penalty, taking the score to 10-7 in favour of the visitors after 21 minutes.

However, it only took two minutes for Piri Weepu to reciprocate with his own penalty, as Wellington locked the scores up at 10-10.

Two minutes later, Alby Matthewson managed a clever offload to Cory Jane which allowed the fullback to race through and grab his second try of the night on 25 minutes. Weepu was again on target, giving the home side the impetus and the lead at 17-10.

Wellington was the next to score, this time through Nonu. The impressive Hosea Gear created space for Ross Filipo, who offloaded to Nonu to score in the corner. Weepu's boot wasn't on target this time leaving the scores at 22-10 after 33 minutes.

Taranaki had the final say of the half, with Ripia adding a penalty on 33 minutes after Matthewson was caught offside for the home team.

The second half started brightly for the visitors, as they took hold of the match and applied pressure on the home side. A beautiful break from Paul Perez put Taranaki inside Wellington's 22, and the pressure lead to an easy penalty for Ripia which took the score to 22-16.

Several phases later, Taranaki again attacked the Lions. After several minutes inside Wellington territory, Perez crashed over out wide. Unfortunately though, the video referee judged that the player had not grounded the ball correctly, and disallowed the try.

This was the impetus that Wellington needed, and just minutes later it broke into Taranaki territory. A clever grubber kick from Weepu dissected the visitors' defence, and Josea Gear was able to connect with the loose ball after an awkward bounce to score the first try of the second half on 48 minutes.

Weepu's reliable boot was again successful, with his conversion taking the score to 29-16.

However, Taranaki wasn't going to let its season fizzle out. Scott Waldrom made an incisive break, and the visitors secured some quick ball through the backline. The space was enough for Paul Perez to convert the opportunity and dot down in the corner. Ripia's boot secured the extras and took the score to 29-23.

But once again, Wellington struck back to reclaim their ascendancy. Several phases of play were capped off by Ross Filipo as the big lock crashed over in the corner following an impressive offload by Tane Tu'ipulotu. Weepu was able to add the extras from out on the chalk to take the scores to 36-23 after 66 minutes.

Some poor discipline from both sides led to them both having a player yellow carded on 69 minutes. Chris Masoe was marched for the home side, whilst Soqueta was penalized for the visitors.

Taranaki then gave Wellington a scare, and brought themselves back into the match. The mercurial Perez was again the scorer, as he blazed the Wellington backs for pace and scored in the corner on 74 minutes. Ripia was on target to bring Taranaki within 7 points with the scores at 36-30.

However, Wellington capped off the match and killed off the challenge with a Tamati Ellison try on 78 minutes, followed by a late try to Thomas Waldrom which blew the score out to 50-30.

The match finished as a victory to Wellington, although Taranaki put up a brave challenge and can consider the score line perhaps a little unreflective of its endeavor.

Wellington 50 (Cory Jane 2, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Ross Filipo, Tamati Ellison, Thomas Waldrom tries; Piri Weepu 6 cons, 1 pen)

Taranaki 30 (Jayden Hayward, Paul Perez 2 tries; Willy Ripia 3 cons, 3 pens)

HT: 22-13