Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

ITM Cup: Manawatu upset Wellington at Cake Tin

Nathan Tudreu of Manawatu is tackled during the round three ITM Cup match between Wellington. Photo / Getty Images
Nathan Tudreu of Manawatu is tackled during the round three ITM Cup match between Wellington. Photo / Getty Images

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Wellington, it has.

The Lions suffered shock losses to Waikato and Northland to begin the ITM Cup but in perhaps the biggest upset of the season to date, they were tipped over 27-21 by Manawatu at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Losing away from home against Northland is one thing, but to go down in front of your home crowd - even if there was only 2880 of them - to a side like Manawatu is nothing short of a crisis.

Wellington were able to call upon All Blacks TJ Perenara and Jeremy Thrush for the game but even they couldn't stop the demise in a contest that many people would have wondered if there was a refund option available on their tickets, such was the low quality.

Balls were dropped by both sides with an alarming regularity, while Wellington managed to butcher three golden scoring opportunities during a dire first half, which saw the sides go to the break locked up at 6-6.

Wellington are now looking like prime contenders to be relegated from the Premiership and it's a long way back from here if they want to make the playoffs.

After both sides exchanged penalties in the second spell, Manawatu first-five Otere Black finished off a sweeping breakout for the visitors as he scored next to the posts.

After adding the extras, Manawatu held a seven-point advantage as the game edged towards the final quarter.

With 20 minutes left, reserve halfback Jamie Booth celebrated his Manawatu debut in perfect fashion with a try that eventually helped secure victory, despite a late Wellington surge.

Black's accurate boot also proved decisive as he finished with 22 points.

Manawatu, who will host Bay of Plenty next Wednesday, have now won two from three and will fancy their chances of pushing towards the playoffs in the Championship.

Wellington will travel to Eden Park to meet Auckland next Saturday as they look to resurrect their ailing campaign, which is bordering on a disaster.

Manawatu 27 (Otere Black, Jamie Booth tries; Black 5 pen, con) Wellington 21 (Jason Woodward, Tolu Fahamokioa tries; 3 pen, con) halftime: 6-6


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