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

Rugby: Emotional skipper driven by milestone

Auckland captain Daniel Braid is congratulated by his team-mates. Photo / Justin Arthur
Auckland captain Daniel Braid is congratulated by his team-mates. Photo / Justin Arthur

With his playing future up in the air, next weekend's ITM Cup Premiership final could be the perfect swansong for Auckland captain Daniel Braid when he will make his 100th appearance for the province.

The 31-year-old put in another solid shift last night in his 99th game in the blue and white hoops as Auckland punched their ticket to the big dance with a 33-22 semifinal victory over Wellington at Westpac Stadium.

The former All Black said he gave his players a stiff reminder before kick-off to dig deep against Wellington.

"I made them aware that this was my 99th game and that we needed to play this one more so I could have a crack at my hundy not knowing what I'm up to next year," he said.

"So I was pretty emotional after the game. I had to pretty quickly get on TV and do an interview and I can't even remember what I said I was that emotional, so I'm very happy."

As for potential career highlights, Braid said winning a final in his 100th game would be right up there.

"It could be a bit of a dream finish, so I look forward to that next week. I think I'm going to celebrate this win here first."

Auckland's path to the final looked on shaky ground at one point during their final-four clash with Wellington when they were down 22-14 mid-way through the second half.

But, shortly after Ardie Savea scored to give Wellington their eight-point advantage, Ross Filipo threw a risky pass five metres out from his own tryline and Auckland centre Malakai Fekitoa intercepted it to score.

Fekitoa added another try shortly after and Auckland claimed an unlikely lead as the Wellington forward pack began to tire.

Auckland second-five Hadleigh Parkes then dotted down with six minutes to go, which spelled the end of Wellington's season and ensured a spot in the final for the Super City side.

Wellington coach Chris Boyd, who watched his side come back from a 9-8 deficit at half-time, said when his charges were ahead 22-14 he thought they were going to the showpiece match.

"At that stage I thought we would have been able to take better control of the game," Boyd said. "But at the end of the day we had a couple of howling mistakes that cost us dearly."

Boyd's side could feel slightly unlucky given Auckland's first try was awarded without referral to the TMO despite TV replays showing try-scorer Pauliasi Manu's foot was in touch.

AUCKLAND 33 (M. Fekitoa 2, P. Manu, H. Parkes tries; G. Anscombe 3 pens, 2 con) Wellington 22 (R. Filipo, M. Reddish, A. Savea tries; J.Woodward pen, 2 con) HT: 9-8 APNZ

- Herald on Sunday

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