Bay of Plenty 31
Bay of Plenty mixed individual brilliance with tradesmanlike reliability to overcome testing conditions and beat Wellington in a national provincial championship rugby match in Wellington last night.
The visitors tweaked their game intelligently to adjust to the wet and windy conditions and were rewarded with a fourth successive ITM Cup victory to solidify their hold on a top-seven position.
First five-eighths Mike Delany produced the consistency in decision making and execution to guide his team around the field, particularly in the first half when they battled into the elements.
The match did not open up until after the break as Wellington sought to make up lost ground but Bay of Plenty prevailed in the end.
The first half was a stop-start affair dominated by the whistle of referee Keith Brown as Delany landed four penalties to the three managed by his young opposite Lima Sopoaga.
Bay of Plenty's 19-12 halftime advantage came courtesy of the only try during that period to fullback Ben Smith, after Delany worked a neat move with second five-eighths Phil Burleigh before Smith hit the line on the angle at pace to breach Wellington's defences.
Already vulnerable after entering the match minus their All Blacks plus a string of injured frontline players, Wellington were confronting a solid defeat early in the second half when Bay of Plenty centre Cory Aporo scored a sweet individual try after he stepped inside his opposite Shaun Treeby.
At 12-26 down, Wellington reacted strongly, reducing the deficit to two points midway through the spell after quality tries to hooker Dane Coles and halfback Alby Mathewson, the first after wing Buxton Popoali'i bust through four weak tackles and the second after Wellington wheeled a scrum on the 22m and Mathewson used his pace to dart down the blindside.
Right wing Lelia Masaga made the most of a turnover on his own 10m line to streak 60m for a decisive try 4min before fulltime.
Bay of Plenty 31 (Ben Smith, Cory Aporo, Lelia Masaga tries; Mike Delany 4 pen, 2 con)
Wellington 24 (Dane Coles, Alby Mathewson tries; Lima Sopoaga 4 pen, con). HT: 19-12.