The Wellington Lions made a great start to the Mitre 10 Premiership rugby season against Otago yesterday, with two converted tries inside the first seven minutes and finishing 34-16.
by Luke Jackson
While Lion’s winger Wes Gooden (pictured) secured the first 10 points, blindside flanker Vaea Fifita’s charging runs and careful offloads were to thank for setting up the two tries.
Wellington kicker Jackson Garden-Bachop, after converting both tries, slotted a penalty kick a few minutes later leaving the Otago 17 points behind with 70 minutes left.
The rest of the half was populated by fumbles and false starts from both sides. The only points scored were two penalties from Otago’s kicker Finn Strawbridge, bringing them to a less disheartening 17-6 as they entered the second half.
Goosen and Fifita, who proved a dangerous duo in the first seven minutes, couldn’t quite reclaim that magic a third time. Fifita had the ball knocked from his hands just inches from the line and the TMO decided Goosen had pushed an Otago player off the ball just before crossing the line for a third time, calling no-try.
Instead the point scoring duties were left to the Lion’s other winger Tuitama Malo, who scored both of the second half’s tries. Garden-Bachon, followed through with another two conversions and a second penalty kick.
Fullback Kurt Hammer scored Otago’s first and only try in the 63rd minute, after an impressive breakaway from Vilimoni Koroi.
Vaea Fifita’s standout performance made it clear he was restricted in the position of lock with the Hurricanes, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen attributing his that placement to Fifita not being selected for this season’s All Black’s squad.
Canterbury will host Wellington this Saturday, and will be eager to come back after the Tasman Mako defeated them 25-17 on Friday.