Wellington couldn’t score a try but they had first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop’s boot to thank for their 21-17 win over North Harbour at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Saturday.
North Harbour paid a tough price for indiscipline, scoring two tries to none but Wellington gutsed out their win after the setback suffered against Otago to get back in a winning frame.
Mistakes marred the approach of both sides during the first half but North Harbour struck first after a strong break by second five-eighths Michael Little. He took play into the Wellington 22m and from the ruck resulting when he was tackled, lock Chris Vui made a powerful burst with the ball and fed flanker Josh Tyrell.
In the act of reaching out for the try he couldn’t quite ground the ball. It was taken by Wellington defenders and when they were caught in-goal it was a scrum five metres for North Harbour.
At the scrum, halfback Bryn Hall moved to the right while No.8 Murphy Taramai picked the ball out and fed left to first five-eighths Matt McGahan who made good use of poor defence on the blindside to score 16 minutes into the game.
But try as North Harbour might they couldn’t back that up and instead it as home Garden-Bachop who get his side back into the game with penalty goals in the 20th, 29th and 40th minutes.
Wellington claimed the lead for the first time four minutes into the second half, again from Garden-Bachop’s boot but North Harbour strung together some of the ball-handling continuity that had so far evaded Wellington.
With McGahan taking the ball to the line the momentum was created and into the Wellington 22m area, the ball emerged for lock Brandon Nansen to beat the tackles of Wellington loose forwards Greg Foe and Brad Shields and to score with ease beneath the posts.
Midway through the second half the North Harbour infringements were proving costly as the metronomic Garden-Bachop kept putting over the penalty goal chances, landing his seventh in the 64th minute. The Wellington big men were also becoming more promiment with flanker Vaea Fifita featuring in a couple of strong runs.
North Harbour went close to scoring a third try after replacement first five-eighths Bryn Gatland placed a perfect cross kick to win Afa Faatau to set up an opportunity with some inter-passing with fullback Matt Duffie. But at a five-metre scrum poor control at the base of the scrum resulted in Wellington clearing the line.
Duffie almost provided Wellington with the chance for their only try of the night when attempting a quick throw-in. However, the ball was taken by Shields and Wellington were only denied when replacement prop Alex Fidow, who got over the line, was ruled to have been tackled and not releasing the ball before going again. Moments later lock Hoani Matenga broke away in a long run but was dragged down short of the line.
North Harbour had their own breakout but Wellington got hold of the ball and denied the visitors a chance in the last three minutes to hold on for the win.
WELLINGTON – 21
Penalties: Jackson Garden-Bachop (20,30,40,44,51,56,64)
NORTH HARBOUR – 17
Tries: Matt McGahan (16),Brandon Nansen (48)
Penalties: Matt Vaega (2)
Cons: Matt Vaega (17,49)