Turbos Triumph in Final Game
The Manawatu Turbos scored a heart-stopping 39-33 win against Wellington on Saturday evening, holding off a late comeback at Westpac Stadium.
With the Turbos' fate already sealed following Waikato's triumph over Hawke's Bay, the Turbos were playing for pride while knowing they were heading back to the Championship. With the pressure seemingly off, the Turbos played some outstanding rugby, and raced out to an early 19-5 lead inside the first quarter.
Wellington appeared to be playing most of the rugby, but their execution was sorely lacking. The Turbos had no such trouble, and with Otere Black running the cutter, the forwards dominating the breakdown and the backs running freely, they made the most of their opportunities. Wellington didn't let them have it easy in the end, but the Turbos dug deep to claim the win. While it didn't mean much in the greater scheme of things, they could at least be satisfied with a spectacular end to their season, and to coach Jason O'Halloran's time with the team. However, the big win still came with a tinge of what might have been.
In their final match of the 2015 season, the Turbos started like a house on fire. Not even a minute had ticked by when the Lions optimistically tried to run the ball out from their own 22m. It didn't end well for the hosts, but the visitors couldn't have been happier, taking a quick throw for Callum Gibbins to score. Black's 100% success with conversions continued, and the Turbos led 7-0.
Some sustained pressure from Wellington saw them get straight back into the contest with a try to Ardie Savea, but after a long game of forceback, the Turbos came up trumps. A pin-point kick, and a helpful bounce of the ball led to their second try, with Heiden Bedwell-Curtis dotting down. After fifteen minutes they had their third via Toby Morland, and it was safe to say the Turbos had produced their best start to a game all year.
The Lions poured the pressure on, but the Turbos were making a statement. They repelled their attacks for a time, but eventually conceded seven points as Jason Woodward's try and conversion reduced the Turbos' lead to 19-12. The Lions fought back by building phases and dominating territory, but the Turbos put on a clinical defensive display, and disrupted the Lions' attacking momentum.
With turnovers and penalties, the Turbos soon made their way back into the Lions 22m. It helped that the hosts turned down shots at goal, whereas the Turbos weren't about to give let their opposition off so easily. Three points from Black gave them a ten point buffer, and the visitors held on in the face of some serious pressure to lead 22-12 at halftime.
The Lions continued where they left off at halftime, camping in the Lions' 22m and almost scoring after four minutes of play. However Jeremy Thrush was off his feet, and the Turbos held on once more. It seemed that it might only be a matter of time until they leaked more points. It turned out that the Lions were the first to spring a leak, as Nick Grogan's impressive run eventually ended with Black slotting his second penalty.
The Lions continued to attack but come away with nothing, whereas the Turbos produced some exciting rugby and tore the Lions apart. Nathan Tudreu's perfect kick and chase saw the blockbusting winger crash over for the Turbos' bonus point try, and gave the visitors a 32-12 advantage.
With their scrum impressing, and the forwards making it past the advantage line with ease, Wellington closed the gap with their third try scored with 15 minutes remaining. A brilliant set move saw Newton Tudreu split the defence, re-establishing the visitors' 20-point lead.
That kick-started a comeback from the Lions though. Reggie Goodes and Cory Jane crossed the whitewash in quick succession, and turned the game into a nail-biter with five minutes to go. Some brilliant length of the field rugby from Wellington got them within 5m of the Turbos' line with time up. Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen tried to charge over, but was deemed to have come up short by the TMO.
Wellington Lions-33 (Ardie Savea, Jason Woodward, Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, Reg Goodes, Cory Jane tries; Jason Woodward 4 con)
Manawatu Turbos-39 (Callum Gibbins, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Toby Morland, Nathan Tudreu, Newton Tudreu tries; Otere Black 4 con, 2 pen)
Jordan Matthews – Turbos Reporter
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