The ITM Cup season is all but over for Waikato after Wellington recovered from a slow start to cruise to a 21-14 win in Hamilton this afternoon.
Heading into the encounter requiring a victory to keep their season hopes alive, Waikato struggled at the breakdown and made far too many handling errors. The backline didn’t get enough possession to show its attacking capabilities and Wellington went on to run away with the game in the second half.
Waikato will now regather to selvedge what they can from the season after a few days off before taking on Counties next Friday.
Full story below:
Damian McKenzie put Waikato into the lead with a kick from out in front after Wellington lost possession and then gave away a penalty at the breakdown.
Wellington struggled to get a spark as possession eluded them early.
McKenzie slotted a long-range penalty from inside his own half to give Waikato a 6-0 lead as Wellington couldn’t get their hands on much ball.
Jason Woodward answered back for Wellington with a penalty of his own from just inside Waikato’s half.
Waikato began to lose possession, and Wellington looked more and more composed as their ball movement began to get sorted.
Wellington scored their first try when an obvious forward pass was missed by the referee that allowed Jeremy Thrush to run into an open gap and score his 20th ITM Cup try to put Wellington into the lead.
Woodward’s conversion was successful and Wellington led 10-6.
Waikato were penalised for obstruction, and Woodward kicked Wellington a further three points ahead.
Anton Lienert-Brown broke away downfield as Waikato started a counter attack from deep in their own half but the centre couldn’t link with either of his two receivers and was penalised for holding onto the ball.
Woodward kicked his third penalty of the afternoon and Wellington began to build a commanding lead.
Wellington went into halftime leading 16-6.
Woodward missed a chance to extend Wellington’s lead to beyond ten points when he pushed a penalty attempt wide, but the penalty count kept mounting against Waikato as their season hopes became more and more desperate.
Just as Waikato got down near the try line, slow ball couldn’t take advantage of extra numbers and then possession was lost again.
Wellington sliced through the Waikato defense and surged downfield but Josh Hohneck made a desperate try saving tackle in the corner to keep his side hanging on by a thread.
Offside breakdown play was missed by the referee as Ardie Savea took the ball out and sprinted down field. A super tackle from Shaun Stevenson stopped Savea in his tracks, but Wellington hooker Leni Apisai was waiting to receive the ball and dotted down for the try.
Woodward missed the conversion, but Wellington had a stranglehold on Waikato 21-6 with a quarter of the game to play.
Brad Weber sparked his side into life, picking his way through a gap to surge downfield and put Wellington under pressure. Slow ball didn’t help matters, but Waikato had numbers to burn out wide and Chauncy Edwardson lost the ball on the try line.
Turning down an easy penalty from out in front, but Weber’s ambitious decision paid off when Edwardson made up for his earlier mistake by scoring a late try for Waikato to keep them in the game.
McKenzie struck the post trying to make the conversion. Wellington led 21-11.
Tactic wise a scrum isn’t the worst way to begin an attack deep in enemy territory, but Waikato didn’t have enough time remaining to take too long getting the set play organised. The scrum executed perfectly, but McKenzie decided to put the through ball in for his receivers but his power on the kick was a little too much and Wellington was able to force the ball for a drop out.
Four minutes remained and Waikato looked to attack the corner but were pushed over the touch line and the game was all but lost.
McKenzie managed to secure a token bonus point in the loss, hitting a penalty in overtime, but the season was all but lost.
The full time whistle blew, and Wellington held on for the win 21-14 in Hamilton.
At a glance:
Waikato 14 (Chauncy Edwardson, Damian McKenzie 3 pen)
Wellington 21 (Jeremy Thrush, Leni Apisai, Jason Woodward 3 pen, 1 con)