Mon, Oct 23, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Waikato defeat Wellington to lift provincial trophy


Waikato were crowned New Zealand's supreme rugby team in Hamilton on Saturday with a 37-31 win over Wellington in the provincial rugby final.

It was their first national championship title since 1992 when current coach Warren Gatland was in his playing heyday.

When Gatland returned to New Zealand last year, after being a successful coach in the English premiership and winning a Heineken Cup, he predicted Waikato would be the country's premier province in two years.

It appeared then a bold prediction given that his side finished seventh in his first year at the helm.

But in a sudden change of fortunes, the Waikato players returned his faith in them, running in four tries to three to beat the Tana Umaga-led Wellington side in a fast and open spectacle.

Ma'a Nonu and Umaga scored late tries to give Wellington's score some respectability, but Waikato's supremacy was never really threatened, particularly after a suspect try to Byron Kelleher early in the second half.

Match officials failed to notice crafty flanker Marty Holah kick the ball through a Wellington scrum and as the ball spewed clear Kelleher beat All Blacks rival Piri Weepu to the punch to give Waikato a 24-13 buffer.

David Hill and Wellington's Jimmy Gopperth traded penalties before a try to Brendon Leonard spelt doom for Wellington, who had to be content with being second best as they were to Auckland in 2003 and Canterbury 12 months later.

Scrumhalf Andrew Ellis is the only new cap in a 32-man All Blacks rugby squad named yesterday to tour Europe next month.

Ellis is one of three scrum-halves named together with Byron Kelleher and Piri Weepu.


John Afoa, Dan Carter, Jerry Collins, Clarke Dermody, Jason Eaton, Andy Ellis, Nick Evans, Rico Gear, Carl Hayman, Andrew Hore, Chris Jack, Byron Kelleher, Luke McAlister, Richie McCaw (captain), Leon MacDonald, Chris Masoe, Aaron Mauger, Keven Mealamu, Malili Muliaina, Ma'a Nonu, Anton Oliver, Keith Robinson, Joe Rokocoko, James Ryan, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Conrad Smith, Rodney Sooialo, Reuben Thorne, Neemia Tialata, Piri Weepu, Ali Williams, Tony Woodcock.

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