Rugby: Auckland advance to final

By Daniel Richardson

Pauliasi Manu of Auckland is tackled by Wellington's Frae Wilson. Photo / Getty Images
Pauliasi Manu of Auckland is tackled by Wellington's Frae Wilson. Photo / Getty Images

Auckland 33 Wellington 22
You have to hold on to the ball if you want to win rugby games and Wellington simply didn't do that enough as they were beaten 33-22 by Auckland in their ITM Cup Premiership semifinal at Westpac Stadium tonight.

Four second-half tries to the visitors proved decisive and despite playing in to a stiff breeze, it was Auckland who came home with the wind in their sails.

Centre Malakai Fekitoa dotted down twice for Auckland and was dangerous on attack, while a late score from Hadleigh Parkes with only six minutes left put the nail in Wellington's coffin.

Auckland prop Pauliasi Manu also got on the scoresheet during the second spell and Wellington coach Chris Boyd may have a right to feel disappointed after television replays indicated that Manu's foot may have been in touch.

Wellington's forwards weren't afraid to throw the ball around and they were a sight to see when in full flight as they ran strongly and produced offloads that would've impressed Sonny Bill Williams.

But, ultimately their lack of ball retention hurt them badly as they continued to turn the pill over and give it back to Auckland who gleefully accepted the offerings of possession from the Lions.

In the opening spell, Auckland showed they came to play as their physical forwards carried the ball strongly in to contact and made decent headway against a brave Wellington defensive line.

The home side did well not to concede a try during the opening 20 minutes as Auckland enjoyed long periods of possession but were only rewarded with three penalties to pivot Gareth Anscombe.

Eventually Wellington absorbed all the pressure and began to find their way in to the contest as Jason Woodward got them on the board with a penalty.

Ross Filipo was then able to lodge the first try of the game, just before the half-time hooter blew, as he finished off a brilliant breakout from the Lions, which also saw Dane Coles and Alaptai Leiua show off their silky skills.

Woodward, who found goal-kicking tough in the swirling wind, failed to boot the conversion but Wellington went in to the break only one point down with the scoreboard reading 9-8 in favour of the visitors.

Wellington were the first side to score in the second half when lock Mark Reddish crashed over from a lineout and when Ardie Savea scored in the corner and Woodward kicked the tricky conversion the Lions seemed to be on track with a 22-14 lead.

But, Auckland counter-punched again and finished strongly and will now travel to Christchurch to meet Canterbury in the final next weekend.

Auckland 33 (Malakai Fekitoa 2, Pauliasi Manu, Hadleigh Parkes tries; Gareth Anscombe 3 pens, 2 con) Wellington 22 (Ross Filipo, Mark Reddish, Ardie Savea tries; Jason Woodward pen, 2 con) HT: 9-8

- APNZ

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