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Wellington dent Northland’s playoff hopes

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allblacks.com     12 Oct 2017     Getty Images

The Lions have been a cut above the rest of the Championship all season and did not let their standards slip in their final regular season outing - despite already having top spot secured.

The return of Vaea Fifita, Brad Shields and Julian Savea to the Wellington line-up had a big impact with each player involved in key moments.

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Northland came south knowing they needed at least two competition points to guarantee a place in the Championship playoffs and started as though their season was on the line. The first 20 minutes belonged to Northland as they played with more urgency than the home side. Wellington looked stunned as the Taniwha threw their bodies into the breakdown, offloaded at every opportunity and dominated the possession and territory stakes.

They finally had reward for all their dominance in the 17th minute when Rene Ranger put a well-weighted kick in behind the line and right wing Jordan Hyland won the race to the ball. 



The home-side managed to get more ball as the first half wore on and stormed back into the game with two brilliant individual tries in the space of five minutes. 

The first was scored by young midfielder Thomas Umaga-Jensen who burst onto a pass from the top of the line out and brushed off a couple of Northland defenders to score.

The second try was equal parts brilliant and fortuitous. A chip kick from impressive first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop bounced off the crossbar and back into his arms for the try.

In a flash Northland’s lead was evaporated. But the Taniwha ended the half with a Dan Hawkins penalty to trail by just two at the break.

Following a lengthy injury break to Northland lock Tim Bond, Northland grabbed the lead back when Hawkins landed his second penalty to make it 13-12.

Wellington have shown an ability all season to lift their tempo at will, and they did just that with a three-try burst in 15 minutes to effectively end Northland’s hopes. The impressive burst was spear-headed by explosive front rowers Alex Fidow and Asafo Aumua who caused plenty of problems for the Northland defence and both crossed for tries.

At 31-13 down, Northland began to throw the ball around frantically and eventually the tactic paid off when Jack Goodhue went over to give them a glimmer of a crucial bonus point at 31-18 down with five minutes to play.

Fittingly it was impressive reserve hooker Asafo Aumua who had the final say with his seventh try of the season to make it 36-18 to Wellington at fulltime.

Wellington can now prepare for a home semifinal while Northland have a nervous wait on other results to see if they will qualify for the playoffs.

Scorers:

Wellington 36 (Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Asafo Aumua 2, Alex Fidow, Julian Savea tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop try, 3 con) Northland 18 (Jordan Hyland, Jack Goodhue tries, Dan Hawkins con, 2 pen)
HT: 12-10