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Waikato retain slim NPC playoff hopes

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/10/2016
Sevu Reece, Stephen Donald, Jordan Trainor and Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara of Waikato celebrate the win after the final whistle during the round nine Mitre 10 Cup match between Wellington and Waikato at Westpac Stadium. © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Sevu Reece, Stephen Donald, Jordan Trainor and Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara of Waikato celebrate the win after the final whistle during the round nine Mitre 10 Cup match between Wellington and Waikato at Westpac Stadium.

Late-charging Waikato have overrun Wellington 28-24 to maintain their slim chance of qualifying for the NPC premiership semi-finals.

The result, which eliminates Auckland from playoff contention, was sealed with two late tries after Waikato trailed championship division side Wellington by 10 points with eight minutes remaining.

Waikato winger Sevu Reece scored from a cross-kick from first five-eighth Damian McKenzie before McKenzie set up the decisive 78th-minute try to veteran back Stephen Donald.

It was a triumph for former All Black Donald, 32, who came off the bench in his first appearance of the competition, having recovered from a shoulder injury suffered more than three months ago.

Waikato's fifth win from 10 games moves them ahead of Auckland into fourth place.

However, the Mooloo men will miss out on the playoffs if sixth-placed Tasman snare a solitary point against lowly Southland in Nelson on Sunday.

Home side Wellington needed a bonus point win in the cross-over match to secure first place in the second-tier competition.

However, the late twist resulted in a fourth loss and means they finish second behind Otago.

It was an improved performance from a side who leaked 50 points to both Manawatu and Taranaki in heavy losses last week.

Wellington trailed 7-0 early on when Waikato flanker Adam Burn crossed but they were soon 17-7 up through tries to loose forwards Vaea Fifita and Hoani Matenga, and prop Reggie Goodes.

Jordan Manihera benefited from a slick pass from outstanding one-Test All Black McKenzie to reduce the margin to three points at halftime.

Reserve hooker Asafo Aumua ensured forwards scored all of Wellington's tries before Waikato's thunderous finish which included two crucial conversions from wide out from McKenzie.

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