Rugby: Wellington win inaugural Lomu Memorial Trophy in final seconds

By Campbell Burnes

Wellington 28 Counties Manukau 27
Jackson Garden-Bachop was the game-winner for Wellington. Photo / Getty
Jackson Garden-Bachop was the game-winner for Wellington. Photo / Getty

Jackson Garden-Bachop, take a bow.

The Wellington Lions No 10 stole the game and the inaugural Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy with a 48m final-second penalty goal. This after he had scored a try and kicked four earlier goals, along with missing three - it was a topsy-turvy night.

The Steelers started the game with little ball but should still have done enough to go 3-1 in the Premiership. Instead, they fell to a Championship side for the second time in 2016.

The Steelers had August Pulu and Jordan Taufua in rampant form complementing a double to fullback Luteru Laulala. Hika Elliot and gigantic lock Cameron Skelton were unleashed from the bench for the first time this season.

But as is often the case, the Steelers kept things interesting by just dropping their intensity at an inopportune moment.

The game never really opened up as the penalty count topped 25, referee Glen Jackson pinging both sides with alacrity.

Fans were treated to the bizarre sight of Wellington blindside flanker Vaea Fifita hurdling Piers Francis at full pace down the left flank. It had no real impact on the match but it lit up Twitter for a time.

The Lions had the, ahem, lion's share of early ball and field position but could not make the advantage count after an initial lineout-driven try to hooker Leni Apisai.

They were not helped by the sin-binning of lock Isaia Walker-Leawere for not rolling away from a ruck when he was pinned. Apisai, incredibly, scored another from an identical lineout set-up.

Wellington replacement first-five TJ Va'a was stretchered off with what looked a painful knee injury.

The Steelers face Premiership union Taranaki on Wednesday at Pukekohe, while Wellington host Bay of Plenty on Friday.

The Counties Manukau Heat beat the Wellington Pride 37-5 in the Farah Palmer Cup curtainraiser.

Wellington 28 (Leni Apisai 2, Jackson Garden-Bachop tries; Garden-Bachop 2 cons, 3 pens)
Counties Manukau 27 (Luteru Laulala 2, Kalolo Tuiloma tries; Piers Francis 3 cons, 2 pens)
Halftime: 11-17

- NZ Herald

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