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Wellington seize Lomu trophy with late win

NZN 9/09/2016

Jackson Garden-Bachop's sweetly struck long-range penalty has secured the Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy for Wellington with a last-gasp 28-27 win over Counties Manukau in Pukekohe.

The match, between Lomu's two provinces, will be contested annually in memory of the former All Blacks great, who died last November.

Wellington are the inaugural holders, edging Counties in the 81st minute of an up-tempo, free-flowing game which featured three tries apiece.

The visitors hit the front after 11 minutes, a well-controlled maul from an attacking line setting up hooker Leni Apisai for the try and a 5-0 lead.

Piers Francis and Garden-Bachop exchanged penalties, and Wellington looked to be controlling possession and territory comfortably to lead 8-3 after 20 minutes.

But the sinbinning of Lions lock Isaia Walker-Leawere as the half-hour mark neared proved crucial, Counties capitalising with two converted tries to take a 17-11 lead into halftime.

Smart passing and a sharp eye for the right option from halfback Augustine Pulu featured in both, with fullback Luteru Laulala finishing clinically for a double.

Francis added another penalty to extend the Steelers' lead to nine 10 minutes into the second half, but Wellington hit back two minutes later with Apisai's second from another set-piece lineout drive.

Counties prop Kalolo Tuiloma barrelled over as the hour mark neared, rewarding the Steelers' patience and discipline in playing one-off the ruck to give the home team a 27-18 lead.

Wellington worked hard to build phases and field position before Gardon-Bachop darted through to touch down and narrow Counties' lead to just two points with 13 minutes remaining.

Counties continued to play at pace, and pressured the Wellington defence mightily before a late turnover gave Wellington a sniff of victory, a chance Garden-Bachop converted with his 48-metre penalty.

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