Goss is boss at the Jonahdome
Wellington played out of their skins and delighted a home crowd, which expected them to lose and lose badly, on Friday night at WestpacTrust Stadium.
Their worst fears were confirmed when in the third minute, Marika Vunibaka shot over for a try and two very silly penalities were conceded by Afeaki and Waller. But coach Graham Mourie had been working on bolstering Wellington’s historically weak forward pack and the results were obvious. Goss is boss and is free to marry my sister.
In front of a crowd of 28,000 the home team showed that finally, they might just be able to put together a consistent performance and reward their long-suffering, perpetually cheerful supporters. Once the Wellington forwards got hold of the ball they consistently retained possession for extended periods and frequently converted it into points. The first try to Elvis Seveali’i came from this sort of constant pressure and pure go-forward football, and may unfortunately result in the presence of some very bad Elvis impersonators at the next home game (or ‘Elvi’).
But it was never easy. Canterbury are big boys and the presence of All Black reserves and hard-bitten veterans of the Super 12 campaign ensured that the Lions had a very nasty fight on their hands. However Scott Robinson had a shocker for Canterbury and Reuben Thorne played like a man having an out-of-body experience.
In the second half, Wellington got off to a flyer, with tries to Afeaki and Tiatia. The latter effort came from nowhere, as the big man cut through the Canterbury defence like a knife and touched down directly under the posts. Just as the supporters started to relax though, Canterbury mounted a counter-attack and Ben Hurst scored near the posts. The score was 27-15 and the extremely obnoxious Canterbury supporter behind me was gargling his beer with joy.
But Wellington held on and was unlucky to miss out on a fourth try in the final minutes of the game. Those bonus points can be handy at the end of the season.
The final score was 27-20 to Wellington. Despite this a large contingent of Canterbury supporters were still loudly chanting their provincial mating call, even as the rest of us were leaving the gates. Get used to losing, meladdos. If you need any advice, ask a Wellingtonian.
A promising start for the Lions. Let’s hope the momentum can be maintained for the remainder of the season.