Fri, 09 Sep 2016
There was heartache for the Counties Manukau Steelers when a penalty after fulltime led to a 28-27 victory for Wellington at ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe.
While the home side were in front at halftime arguably against the run of play, they had worked their way into a winning position in the second half.
Wellington ran a last-gasp hope from their own goal line and with the benefit of two penalties in the process, their first-five Jackson Garden-Bachop slotted home a 48m kick with fulltime up to snatch the one-point victory.
With it they won the magnificent Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy, presented for the first time by the Lomu family in memory of the great man who was such a big part of both Counties Manukau and Wellington rugby.
The Steelers took a 17-11 lead into halftime despite being behind in all the telling stats in the opening 40 minutes. The visitors had 60 percent of the possession, 56 percent of the territory and had to make only half the number of tackles.
The home side took some advantage of Wellington being a man down when local Isaia Walker-Leawere was yellow carded for lying in the ruck as the Steelers pushed for the try. In the end the try came a minute before the break, and after a prolonged drive from the forwards, it ultimately came in the right hand corner to fullback Luteru Laulala, converted brilliantly by Piers Francis.
While Counties continued to play a lot of the game in the middle third of the field, they looked the more likely especially after prop Kalolo Tuiloma barged over to give them a 27-18 advantage midway through the second half.
Garden-Bachop brought the visitors back to within two points with a converted try with 10 minutes left. But with the Steelers hot on attack with two minutes remaining the result seemed in their grasp before Wellington began their winning push from their own line.
It was disappointing for the Steelers who had fought so vigorously throughout. Co-captain Augustine Pulu was again in splendid form, with strong defence, darting runs or directing the backline, while Laulala was dangerous from the back. Upfront Jordan Taufua was irrepressible and led the home side pack who made plenty of ground.
The visitors gained the win with their strong in defence around the goal line and their rush defence which managed to stunt the Steelers ability to get the ball to their dangerous outside backs.
Steelers assistant coach Grant Henson said the team feel pretty gutted.
“People will look and say we lost at the end, but we were pretty inaccurate tonight. We pushed a lot of passes that we shouldn’t have and that probably cost us in the end.
“But it was such a special night to be a part of and it was awesome to see the old school jersey back. It’s great that our fans turned up on this cold night and it was such a great occasion and right that we play for the big fella.”
Counties Manukau Steelers 27 (Luteru Laulala 2, Kalolo Tuiloma tries; Piers Francis 2 penalties, 3 conversions)
Wellington Lions 28 (Leni Apisal 2, Jackson Garden-Bachop tries; Bachop 3 penalties, 2 conversions)
The Counties Manukau & Wellington Rugby Union’s would like to say a huge thank you to the Lomu family for their support of this game. Nadene, Brayley and Dhyreille Lomu said to say a huge thank you to the organisers and both unions, as well as the players and everyone for their support and all the heartfelt messages they often receive.
We have had so many requests for the Jonah Lomu jersey to be made available to our fans, so if you are interested make sure to pre-order replica Jonah Lomu jerseys from this Monday at email@example.com or by calling reception on 09 237 0033. This will be pre-order and you must pay at the time.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Steelers, with the next home game this Wednesday evening against Taranaki at 7:35pm at ECOLight Stadium (Wednesday 14 September). Get your tickets to the fixture at www.iticket.co.nz or at the CMRFU Office at ECOLight Stadium during office hours or at the gate on Game Day. Tickets on the Grandstand cost $20 for adults, $15 for students and $10 for kids and Kids 13 & Under are FREE on the South Auckland Motors Embankment thanks to Pak ‘n’ Save Pukekohe.