- By Peter Marriott
Result: Hawke’s Bay 25 – Wellington 24
Wellington and Hawke’s Bay have now met 31 times at NPC level. Wellington has won on 18 of those occasions and Hawke’s Bay has won 11 times. There have been two drawn matches.
Of the 16 NPC matches which have now been played in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay has won four times including the last two in a row. This is the first time they have beaten Wellington in successive matches away from home, and both in the same season.
Wellington has now taken part in 18 Semifinal matches since 1999. Of those they have won 13 and lost five. This was the first time Wellington and Hawke’s Bay have met in a Semifinal. Eleven of their Semifinals have been held at home and this was just the third they have lost when hosting. The others were in 2012 (lost 22-33 to Auckland) and in 2016 (lost 37-40 to North Harbour).
Wellington’s opponents in their Semifinal matches have been Auckland (won three, lost two), Canterbury (won two, lost one), Counties Manukau (won one), Hawke’s Bay (lost one), North Harbour (lost one), Northland (won one), Otago (won one), Southland (won two), and Waikato (won three).
Wellington lost just two of their 12 NPC matches played this year. Both were against Hawke’s Bay. At the end of last year, Wellington was the Ranfurly Shield holder and the NPC Champion. This year they lost both the Shield and the opportunity to defend their title, to Hawke’s Bay.
This was the 10th time in 48 years of NPC rugby Wellington has lost just two of their matches in a season. Their best year was 1986 when they won all 10 of their matches. In 1980, 1981, 1987 and 2017 they lost just one match.
Wellington’s worst year was in 2014 when they won just one of their 10 matches.
Wellington has now lost twice to the same team in the same year on eight occasions. This obviously arises when the opposition side beats them both in the regular season and then in thefinals. The years this has happened are: 1999 Auckland (Final), 2006 Waikato (Final), 2009 Canterbury (Final), 2010 Canterbury (Semifinal), 2012 Auckland (Semifinal), 2018 Auckland (Semifinal), 2019 Tasman (Final) and 2023 Hawke’s Bay (Semifinal). In 2015 Wellington drew their regular season match with Hawke’s Bay and then lost to them in the Final.
This Semifinal was Wellington’s 500th NPC match. Of that number they have played 252 at home for 182 wins (72.2%), 66 losses and four draws. They have played 248 matches away from home for 134 wins (54.0%), 106 losses and eight draws.
Wellington has conceded a total of 5001 points at all home venues.
In their 12 NPC matches played this year, Wellington conceded a total of 201 points, the fewest in any season since conceding 166 in 1993 in eight matches.
Wellington made one change to their starting line-up against Hawke’s Bay compared to the XV which started in the previous Quarterfinal match against Waikato. The change was in the forwards.
With both sides scoring three tries, Wellington has maintained the symmetry of having scored exactly 500 tries more than they have conceded (1726 tries for and 1226 tries against).
This was the 24th time Wellington has been involved in a NPC match where the winning/losing margin was one point.
There have been three occasions involving Hawke’s Bay: in 1982 when Wellington won 13-12 at Athletic Park in Wellington (whilst also defending the visitor’s challenge for the Ranfurly Shield), in 2015 when Hawke’s Bay won the Championship Final 26-25 at Napier, and now another loss to Hawke’s Bay (24-25) in this year’s Semifinal
Of the 24 times the result has been determined by one point, 13 have occurred in Wellington: seven at the old Athletic Park and six at Westpac/Sky Stadium. Wellington has won 11 of the 24 matches played and lost 13 including the last three in succession.
Billy Proctor scored his 11th try in his 59th match.
Dominic Ropeti scored his second try, in this his 12th match.
Riley Higgins’s try was his eighth in 19 appearances. He also scored a try in the previous match: the Quarterfinal against Waikato.
Aidan Morgan kicked just five points but he took his total in all NPC matches this year to 102 which placed him in third-equal position on the point scoring table with Zarn Sullivan of Auckland. When the 28 points he kicked in the two early-season Ranfurly Shield matches are added, his total for 2023 is 130: 75 points better than his previous best season of 55 points last year.
Morgan’s 130 points is the highest total in a season by a player since Jackson Garden-Bachop scored 142 in 2017 and the second highest total in the last 10 years. For the record the highest points total in each of the last 10 years has been: 2014 (52 – Willie Ripia), 2015 (52 – Jason Woodward), 2016 (122 – Jackson Garden-Bachop), 2017 (142 – Jackson Garden-Bachop), 2018 (91 – Jackson Garden-Bachop), 2019 (116 – Jackson Garden-Bachop), 2020 (88 – Jackson Garden-Bachop), 2021 (68 – Ruben Love), 2022 (92 – Jackson Garden-Bachop) and 2023 (130 – Aidan Morgan).
Aidan Morgan was the only player to appear in all 14 of Wellington’s matches. Unsurprisingly, he was also on the field for the most minutes: 973. That equates to scoring a point every seven and a half minutes!
Ruben Love had his first kicks at goal in 2023. He was successful with both attempts.
Brad Shields was awarded a yellow card in the 17th minute, the fifth for a Wellington player this year. At the same time he was sent for an HIA assessment which he failed.
Morgan Mitchell made his debut for Wellington, on loan, having previously played for Southland between 2014 and 2022. He took the number of players who have made an appearance for Wellington this season to 47, including 19 debutants.
Asafo Aumua played his first NPC match of the year having previously appeared in the two pre-season Ranfurly Shield challenge matches.
Chase Tiatia scored all three of Hawke’s Bay’s tries to become the first player from his side to get a hat-trick against Wellington in a NPC match. The previous record was two tries, by four different players; Ray Falcon at Hastings in 1981, Jamie Saker at Napier in 1992, Andrew Horrell at Napier in 2011 and Ryan Tongia at Napier in 2014.
Tiatia was born in Lower Hutt and in 2014 played three matches for Wellington. He then moved to the Bay of Plenty side which he represented from 2015 to 2021.
Chase Tiatia turned 28 on the day of the Semifinal.
Lincoln McClutchie kicked 10 points to take his tally in all matches against Wellington to 56. He is also the top point scorer in this year’s NPC with 121 points and that figure, when added to the number of points he had scored for his team before the start of this season (329), took his total in all matches for Hawke’s Bay to exactly 450.
Sam Wye, who went on as a replacement after 77 minutes, was awarded a yellow card in the 80th minute.
Hawke’s Bay now meet Taranaki in the NPC Final in New Plymouth on Saturday 21st.
Wellington’s overall record in the NPC is: played 500 matches, won 316 (63.2%), lost 172 and drawn 12.