Wellington: 49 (Wes Goosen 2, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Trent Renata, Tolu Fahamokioa, Regan Verney tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 pen, 5 con) Northland: 21 (Jordan Hyland, Solomon Alaimalo, Sam Nock tries; Dan Hawkins 2 con, Peter Breen con). HT: 16-14.
The Lions were behind 14-9 after 35 minutes but roared home to earn hosting rights for the Championship final.
In the 34th minute Northland openside Dan Pryor was yellow carded following repeat infringements from the visitors. A minute later Sheridan Rangihuna and Galu Taufale combined to win a turnover and Thomas Umaga-Jensen ploughed through the defence for Wellington’s first try.
Wellington was a renewed team in the second-spell. The sloppiness around the breakdown largely disappeared and the Lions asserted themselves physically.
Wes Goosen profiled immediately after the break collecting the last pass in a slick movement and then wing Julian Savea turned provider for Trent Renata after the former turned back the clock with a thrilling 50-metre outside break.
Ahead 30-14 it was the Tawa duo of Kemara Hauiti-Parapara and Tolu Fahamokioa who settled the contest at the three-quarter mark. Hauiti-Parapara showed startling speed to ferret 35-metres from a scrum, before the later applied typical brute force to barge over.
Earlier Jackson Garden-Bachop kicked Wellington into a 6-0 lead, but Northland were rewarded for their enterprise and industry when converted tries were scored by Jordan Hyland and Solomon Alaimalo.
When Wellington hit their stride their was some spectacular play. In the 67th minute Garden-Bachop surged 25-metres and looked certain to score on his own until an errant pass somehow bounced favourably for Regan Verney. Goosen applied the icing after a captain’s steal by Brad Shields.
WHO STOOD OUT
Garden-Bachop showed why he was named WRFU Lions player of the year on Monday with a polished display. Shields was close to his best and in tandem with club veterans Mateaki Kafatolu and Galu Taufale gradually tamed their opposites. Alex Fidow and Tolu Fahamokioa were busy and bruising. Sam Lousi made an explosive start and midfielders Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Wes Goosen are a formidable pair. Goosen made some telling tackles in the first forty.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Wellington Lions have scored four tries or more in every match this season.
Jackson Garden-Bachop has kicked 52 goals from 68 attempts this season.
Wellington have scored 65 tries this season, their best effort since 2008 when they scored 62.
Wellington and Northland (North Auckland prior to 1994) have now met 38 times between 1939-2017. Wellington has now 27, Northland nine and there have been two draws.
Wellington has now played 26 Men's NPC semi-finals since their first appearance in the post-season rounds in 1999. They have now won 15 and lost 11. This will be the second time in three years that they have reached the Championship final, following their 34-14 win over Otago in 2015 and 37-40 loss to North Harbour last year.
CLUB RUGBY LIONS MVP
3. Jackson Garden-Bachop
2. Brad Shields
1. Wes Goosen
Points after nine matches:
15. Asafo Aumua
10. Jackson Garden-Bachop
8. Wes Goosen
5. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
5. Du'Plessis Kirifi
4. Alex Fidow
3. Jeff To'omaga-Allen
3. James Tuiatua
3. Sam Lousi
2. Julian Savea
2. Will Mangos
2. Mateaki Kafatolu
2. Brad Shields
1. Tolu Fahamokioa
1. Sitiveni Paongo
Wellington Trent Renata, Julian Savea, Wes Goosen, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Ben Lam, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Sheridan Rangihuna, Galu Taufale, Mateaki Kafatolu, Brad Shields (c), James Blackwell, Sam Lousi, Alex Fidow, Asafo Aumua, Tolu Fahamokioa. Reserves: Sitiveni Paongo, Vince Sakaria, Joe Apikotoa, Will Mangos, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Regan Verney, Malo Tuitama.
Northland: Solomon Alaimalo, Jordan Hyland, Rene Ranger, Jack Goodhue, Jone Macilai, Dan Hawkins, Sam Nock, Matt Matich, Kara Pryor, Dan Pryor, Murray Douglas, Josh Goodhue, Ropate Rinakama, Matt Moulds (c), Ross Wright. Reserves: Jordan Olsen, Phil Kite, Chris Apoua, Michael Faleafa, Jack Ram, Emil Pittman, Peter Breen, Tamati Tua.