Wellington missed out to Manawatu 28-29 in an ITM Cup pre-season match at the Hutt Recreation Ground on Friday afternoon.
Played in a blustery wind, Wellington trailed 14-19 halftime, came back to lead late in the match, but conceded a late try to the visiting side. Manawatu out-scored Wellington five tries to four.
Wellington XV blindside flanker Vaea Fifita stormed through on a brilliant 30-metre run to score the try of the match with just a few minutes left on the clock, to put the home side ahead. But, a turnover and breakout try gave Manawatu victory just a few moments later.
Despite the defeat, Wellington had a strong hit-out, with several new and experienced players staking their claims for a berth in the Ricoh Wellington Lions for 2014. The squad is named on August 11 ahead of their opening ITM Cup match against Waikato at Westpac Stadium on Saturday the 16th.
Lock Christian Lloyd, prop Tolu Fahamokioa, flanker Fifita, and replacement Brad Shields all played well in the pack.
In the backs, Riki Flutey returned to Wellington colours and directed traffic well in the first half. Halfback Jared Kahu put together a strong performance, while second five-eighth Wes Goosen had some nice touches and defended stoutly in the first half. His second half replacement was Conrad Smith, who enjoyed his first provincial rugby appearance since 2011.
Manawatu scored the game’s first try after they ripped the ball out to right wing Newton Tudreu in the fourth minute, who showed a clean pair of heels out wide. First five-eighth Otrere Black kicked the conversion.
The Wellington XV struck back with their first try to centre Matt Proctor, running off the shoulder of first five-eighth Flutey after an attacking scrum in prime positon. Halfback Jared Kahu added the conversion to level the scores up at 7-7.
A patient build-up and some direct ball running by Wellington’s forwards created their second try, to left wing Belgium Tutagaloa, converted by Kahu to make it 14-7 after 26 minutes.
Organised phase play led to Manawatu replying through their hooker and captain Rob Foreman. Wellington led 14-12 after half an hour.
The Turbos made a break up into Wellington territory from the kick-off. Awarded a penalty from the next ruck, blindside flanker Heiden Bedwell-Curtis dived over the chalk to score their next try. Black added the extras to put the visitors up 19-14 moments before halftime.
The Wellington XV made several changes at halftime, including the introduction of Hurricanes captain Smith, and teammate Shields.
Wellington were pinned inside their own half and put through their paces on defence throughout much of the third quarter, but scrambled well and denied Manawatu opportunities.
Wellington turned this long period of pressure into points, when they kicked for a lineout in the corner, anddrove to the line. Their reward was a try to lock Pati Gaualofa, which replacement first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop kicked to put them ahead 21-19.
Manawatu were again quick to strike back, making the most of a Wellington dropped ball out wide from a scrum. This led to an unconverted try on the opposite side of the field to fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder, restoring their lead 24-21 with 12 minutes remaining.
Individual brilliance saw Wellington take the lead moments later, through blindside flanker Fifita, who stormed through on an angle to find the try line. Garden-Bachop converted and Wellington led 28-24.
However, Manawatu broke out from 70 metres through centre Jason Emery, leading to a second try to right wing Newton Tudeau. This made the final score 29-28.
Wellington had a late chance to snatch victory after replacement left wing Afa Fa’atau intercepted a short pass and created a half chance in the corner for Garden-Bachop, but the latter was bundled into touch and the green and whites held on to win.
Wellington XV 28 (Matt Proctor, Belgium Tutagaloa, Kaipati Gaualofa, Vaea Fifita tries; Jared Kahu 2 con, Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con) lost to Manawatu 29 (Newton Tudreau 2, Nehe Milner-Scudder, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Rob foreman tries; Otere Black 2 con, Jade Te Rure 2 con). HT: Manawatu 19-14.