Wellington: 59 (Tolu Fahamokioa 2 Sam Lousi, Brad Shields, Alex Fidow, Wes Goosen, Sitiveni Paongo,) Bay Of Plenty: 40 (Luke Campbell, Tyler Ardro, Joe Webber, Terrence Hepetema, Jesse Parete, Mitchell Karpick: Mike Delaney 2con) HT:
After 17 years the Wellington Lions have finally won a final.
It took longer than it should, but in extra time the Lions eventually suppressed the smoke of the Steamers.
It was 40-40 at fulltime, but three classic Lions tries in the additional period ensured Wellington's promotion to the Premiership.
A long pass by Jackson Garden-Bachop put Wes Goosen in the clear and over the chalk to make it 47-40 in the 83rd minute. A few moments later makeshift hooker Sitiveni Paongo collected a cross-kick by Garden-Bachop to bring up a half-century for Wellington.
The Capital's title drought was broken when Julian Savea showed why he was an All Black, busting multiple tackles to bustle 25-metres for the clincher.
Regulation time was far from regulation.
The Steamers went out to a 14-5 lead after individual brilliance from Joe Webber down the left-hand wing saw him cross the line to power out to a nine-point lead.
The home side sprung into their attack, lock Sam Lousi lengthened out to score then prop Tolu Fahamokoia punched through to take the Lions to a 20-14 lead at the break.
Wellington kicked the second half off and captain Brad Shields charged down to score in the corner. Then Garden-Bachop added another three to extend the Lions out to a 28-14 lead barely a minute into the second spell.
Steamers No. 8 Tyler Ardron replied with an intercept try. Webber soon followed dancing around the Wellington defence to go in for his second and Delany was faultless with the boot tied the game up 28-28.
But Wellington once again took the lead through Fahamokioa. However, the Steamers didn’t settle and a clean break from Campbell saw replacement No 8 Jesse Parete tie the match up 33-33.
With full time approaching, Wellington were ahead 40-33 after the bus Julian Savea powered over. Another Steamers try would tie it all up 40 all when Terrence Hepetema crossed the line.
With the fulltime hooter gone Gardon-Bachop had the opportunity to seal the Championship but hit the penalty wide to send the game into extra time.
WHO STOOD OUT
Tolu Fahamokioa was an unlikely hero holding his own in the scrum and scoring two tries.
Brad Shields was very busy and Garden-Bachop proved his worth holding his cool in extra time despite poor goalkicking.
Sam Lousi had a storming game, emptying his tank, as did several other players. Openside flanker Mateaki Kafatolu and lock Will Mangos had super-busy games and by season's end showed they are as comfortable at this level as he is in the Jubilee Cup.
BY THE NUMBERS
This was Wellington’s sixth consecutive win over Bay of Plenty.
Wellington won their fourth final in 15 attempts.
This was Wellington's fifth NPC title win (albeit the 'Championship'), following wins in 1978, 1981, 1986 and 2000.
This win extends Wellington’s record against BoP in all first-class matches to played 37 won 30, lost five and drawn two.
Wellington has now scored four tries or more on 17 occasions against Bay of Plenty.
Wellington scored 72 tries in 2017, which is a union record, surpassing the 62 scored in 2008 when they won the Ranfurly Shield. Prop Alex Fidow finished with eight tries.
Prop Tolu Fahamakioa, first five-eighth Jackson Garden-Bachop and halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara appeared in all matches for the Lions this year.
CLUB RUGBY LIONS MVP
3. Tolu Fahamokioa
2. Brad Shields
1. Jackson Garden-Bachop
15. Asafo Aumua
11. Jackson Garden-Bachop
8. Wes Goosen
5. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
5. Du'Plessis Kirifi
4. Alex Fidow
4. Tolu Fahamokioa
3. Jeff To'omaga-Allen
3. James Tuiatua
3. Sam Lousi
3. Brad Shields
2. Julian Savea
2. Will Mangos
2. Mateaki Kafatolu
1. Sitiveni Paongo
Wellington: 15: Trent Renata 14: Julian Savea 13: Wes Goosen 12: Thomas Umaga-Jensen 11: Ben Lam 10: Jackson Garden-Bachop 9: Sheridan Rangihuna 8: Brad Shields (c) 7: Mateaki Kafatolu 6: James Blackwell 5: Will Mangos 4: Sam Lousi 3: Alex Fidow 2: Leni Apisai 1: Tolu Fahamokioa. Reserves: Sitiveni Paongo, Vince Sakaria, Joe Apikotoa, Galu Taufale, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Regan Verney, Malo Tuitama
Bay of Plenty: 1. Aidan Ross, 2. Liam Polwart, 3. Jeff Thwaites, 4. Keepa Mewett (captain), 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Mitchell Karpik, 7. Hugh Blake, 8. Tyler Ardron, 9. Luke Campbell, 10. Mike Delany (vice-captain), 11. Joe Webber, 12. Terrence Hepetema, 13. Lalakai Foketi, 14. Monty Ioane, 15. Chase Tiatia. Reserves: James O'Reilly, Jordan Lay, James Lay, Troy Callander, Jesse Parete, Te Aihe Toma, Matthew Garland, Elijah Nicholas.
WHERE TO NEXT
Promotion to the Premiership. The Lions victory is a personal triumph for the gruff and understated Chris Gibbes whose coaching has brought a refreshing clarity to the Lions play in 2017.
This success is rich vindication for the long overdue faith invested in club warriors like Matikea Kafalota, Gulu Tafale and Will Mangos who have brought a passion and steel absent in previous years, and who with the support youthful dynamos like Asafo Aumua, Alex Fidow and Thomas Umaga-Jensen, have helped Wellington achieve a toxic balance better than everybody else, including defending premiership champions Canterbury.