New Zealand Cup
Otago stun Wellington
October 4, 2008
All Blacks international Adam Thomson scored two tries for Otago
© Getty Images
Wellington hold the Ranfurly Shield but momentum seems in danger of deserting the provincial rugby frontrunners after Otago sabotaged plans for an unbeaten season with a stunning 36-21 upset at Carisbrook tonight.
After surviving a mighty scare before repulsing Tasman's bold challenge for the Log o' Wood last weekend, the Air NZ Cup favourite slumped to a potentially demoralising loss as Otago stalwart Craig Newby heads to England with a fitting farewell -- which included the conversion of Adam Thomson's match-winning try between the posts in the 77th minute.
It was an appropriate reward for the loose forward duo who got through a mountain of work at the breakdown to help effect one of the boilovers of the competition. The bonus-point victory was never going to be enough to prolong Otago's otherwise dismal campaign into the quarterfinals, but they at least finished on a high note -- and increased scrutiny of Wellington's capability to complete a Ranfurly Shield-NPC double.
Far from convincing during their first Shield defence in 26 years last Saturday, an admittedly weakened Wellington side turned in another B-grade performance in comparison to the form they showcased earlier in the season. In mitigation Wellington coach Jamie Joseph chose to rest first choice backs Corey Jane, the competition's leading try-scorer Hosea Gear and Piri Weepu.
Initially the trio were scarcely missed as Wellington built a 14-3 lead despite being outmuscled in contact by a side simply trying to finish higher than 12th. Normal service threatened to resume when Tu Umaga-Marshall embarrassed marker Karne Hesketh in the 10th minute, the second-string wing beat his opponent from a standing start after being shown the left hand touchline.
Impressive fullback Chris Noakes narrowed the margin when slotting a 35-metre penalty but when back-up openside flanker Scott Fuglistaller outflanked the cover defence for a simple score five minutes from halftime Wellington looked to be slipping into gear. However, four minutes after the break Hesketh started atoning for his defensive lapse when he shimmed past Umaga-Marshall and fullback Buxton Popoali'i for the first of two tries inside four minutes.
His second also involved raw pace with little room to work in after Sean Roman's tap and go from a Thomson turnover saw the halfback break the line before looping a pass to Hesketh near halfway. Hesketh again had the power and angle to elude Popoali'i and with Noakes conversion the hosts had a surprise one-point lead.
Sensing the tide was turning Wellington lock Ross Filipo gave his pack a rev-up but ironically it was his poor option taking that was instrumental in Otago increasing the buffer -- and their self-belief. Filipo ignored two support players on a surge down the embankment touch and when Otago regained possession the mobile Thomson was on hand to brush aside two weak tackles to swallow dive under the posts.
Replacement wing Alipate Fatefeli then pounced on a hopeful pass from Fa'atonu Fili to lop 40-metres to the sticks and suddenly Wellington had shipped 26 points. Shortly before Fatefehi's intercept Joseph summoned what was left of his All Blacks -- throwing Ma'a Nonu into the fray for the final quarter in a move that paid dividends 10 minutes later when he bullocked over close the posts.
His converted try left Wellington needing a point a minute to at least salvage a draw but the All Blacks utility turned villain three minutes from time when his poor pass was swept up by the predator Thomson, who fended off prop John Schwalger before lifting off a second time when crossing the line.
Wellington discover who they will play in the quarterfinals tomorrow when the ladder is settled after Auckland host Northland.
Result of the 10th round Air NZ Cup rugby clash played between Otago and Wellington at Carisbrook in Dunedin:-
Otago 36 (Karne Hesketh 2, Adam Thomson 2, Alipate Fatefehi tries; Chris Noakes pen 3 con, Craig Newby con)
Wellington 21 (Tu Umaga-Marshall, Scott Fuglistaller, Ma'a Nonu tries; Daniel Kirkpatrick 2 con, Fa'atonu Fili con)