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Wellington edge Manawatu in see-saw battle

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Sunday, August 20, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Wellington had not beaten Manawatu since 2013 and it didn’t come easy at CET Stadium with the lead exchanging a number of times before the Lions took control in the final 15 minutes to secure the bonus-point victory.

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A lot of the pre-match focus was on the clash between 2015 Rugby World Cup winners Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea. While both players had their moments and got their name on the score sheet, it was young Wellington front-rowers Asafo Aumua and Alex Fidow who were even more influential. The dynamic pair showed ball-running and playmaking skill not normally associated with front rowers to keep the Manawatu to defence on constant notice.

Both teams like to play expansive rugby and a high-scoring encounter looked likely from the opening minute when Wellington halfback Sheridan Ranguhuna crossed on the back of a Julian Savea break.

A try-fest beckoned when Kenyan sevens star Willy Ambaka scored on his first touch for Manawatu following a superb skip pass from Otere Black.

The teams exchanged tries regularly for the rest of the half as Wellington went into the break leading 26-22.



The tempo of the game slowed down in the first half has both teams sharpened their defensive structures. It seemed a long time to wait for a try in the second half, but Manawatu grabbed the lead back in the 52nd minute when midfield replacement Jade Te Ruru slid between Brad Shields and Wes Goosen to score. It was a try that came on the back of good old fashioned forward pressure.

Julian Savea had been relatively quiet on the right wing but showed he is still a sublime finisher by crashing over out wide as the Lions snatched the lead back.

With fifteen minutes to play, Wellington weren’t in the mood to give Manawatu a sniff and added a penalty to Dan Kirkpatrick and late try to Malo Tuitama to secure the impressive victory.

Scorers:

Manawatu 29 (Willy Ambaka, Curtis Reid, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jackso Hemopo, Jade Te Ruru tries, Otere Black 2 con) Wellington 41 (Sheridan Rangihuna, Alex Fidow, Trent Renata, Julian Savea, Malo Tuitama tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop try, 4 con, Kirkpatrick pen)
HT: 22-26