Five tries and a flawless display of goal kicking from Jackson Garden-Bachop couldn’t prevent the Wellington Lions from falling to their first Mitre 10 Cup loss of 2017, 37-35 to the Tasman Makos in Blenheim.
The Lions led for most of match, but couldn’t hold on as the Makos reeled in a 28-13 deficit early in the second half, edged ahead with about 10 minutes to play, then held on for the win.
Wellington collected two competition points for scoring five tries, to Alex Fidow, James Blackwell, Sam Lousi, Ben Lam and Losi Filipo, with Garden-Bachop’s five conversions locking in the losing bonus point.
The Makos led 3-0 early after a penalty to first five Mitchell Hunt, but fell behind in the 15th minute when Fidow finished off a long Lions range attack sparked by a break out from loose forward Will Mangos, and wouldn’t regain the lead until the 69th minute.
CAPTION: Wellington captain Brad Shields. PHOTO: Getty Sport
Wellington’s second try also came from well inside their half after centre Wes Goosen latched onto a Garden-Bachop grubber from inside his 22 and fed fullback Ben Lam for a 14-6 advantage.
Tasman struck back through prop Tim Perry to close to 14-13 as the Lions dealt with the loss of captain Brad Shields to a leg injury in the 11th minute, then Goosen holding his shoulder on the half hour mark.
Those injuries saw Petone flanker Mateaki Kafatolu and Poneke centre Levi Harmon pitched into the match in pivotal positions with both players making a good fist of their Mitre 10 Cup debuts.
When Lousi crashed over on the halftime hooter Wellington led 21-13 and extended the lead to 28-13 shortly after the break when Blackwell finished off a Kafatolu break up the middle of the park.
About then the tide began to turn. Tasman fullback Will Jordan and wing James Lowe both scored in quick succession, then Hunt put his side ahead 30-28 with a penalty as the clock ticked toward fulltime.
CAPTION: Wellington wing Losi Filipo. PHOTO: Getty Sport
The influential Tasman first five, who finished with a personal tally of 22 points, then scored and converted his own try and it looked as though the result was beyond reach at 37-28 and less than 10 to play.
Wellington fought back well with Filipo racing away to give his side hope with five minutes to play.
A missed touch kick and a dropped kick off thwarted Wellington’s comeback and the Makos held on for the win.
Tasman 37 (Tim Perry, Will Jordan, James Lowe, Mitch Hunt tries, Hunt 4 con, 3 pen) Wellington Lions 35 (Alex Fidow, Ben Lam, Sam Lousi, James Blackwell, Losi Filipo tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 5 con) HT: 13-21.