“Hello, my name is Wellington and I have this problem with NPC Finals.”
There is a grim air of resignation in the capital this week. On Saturday the NPC final is hosted here so you would think that is strange. But that is the problem; this has happened so many times before. In fact this time it will be the seventh NPC Final since we last won it in 2000. To make it worse, it’s against the sheepies in red & black.
2003. Auckland 41 Wellington 29
And so it begins. Three seasons after winning the NPC Wellington took on our friends from the City of Sales full of confidence. Home town advantage and all that, as well as Deans / Mitchell craziness meaning that Christian Cullen got to play instead of being in Australia at the time.
But the boat shoe wearers were in strutting form, and ran out comfortable winners. Orene Ai’I was the star of the show. Not often you get to say that.
2004. Wellington 27 Canterbury 40
This was the one we were meant to win. Top of the table in round-robin, and a home final against the Twelve Toes who we’d beaten earlier in the season. Ma’a Nonu even wore mascara in preparation for the celebrations.
But the All Black laden Canterbury pack ground it out, and the floodgates opened up in the second half. And Dan Carter laughed at Nonu and pointed at him. But only after the game was safe.
2006. Waikato 37 Wellington 31.
The first year of the ITM Cup, and a format that nobody understood. Never mind, Wellington won its quarter-final in Christchurch of all places. The semi was in Auckland, and they were set aside 30-15. Wow; just like 2000 all over again.
Off to Cow Town for the final, and the bellringers ground out the win. Kelleher and Leonard scored 3 tries between them, and there was a giant burn-out to celebrate, set to a distant sound of chainsaws roaring.
2007. Auckland 23 Wellington 14
The year of rest & rotation meant that even at finals time the All Blacks were not around. Once again, a trip to Christchurch proved no problem when it’s not a final. The final was a trip to Auckland, and the berm lovers prevailed in a dour final.
Once again, Wellington was minor premiers, and had picked up the Ranfurly Shield after 25 years along the way by beating Auckland 27-0. So it was just a formality; right?
Not so; a rubbish night in the capital suited the goat-worshippers perfectly, and they ground it out.
2009. Canterbury 28 Wellington 20
The fourth final in succession, and this time it was off to the DevilBowl to play them. And you know it’s not going to be your day when Colin Slade scores two tries in the first half. It was catch-up from there, and it’s always hard doing that there.
That was the sheep-rustlers’ second title in succession. They now have five in a row under the belt, and head to the capital to try in six. The hosts will be trying to avoid a seventh consecutive final defeat.
You just know what’s going to happen next. (Not that we’re bitter or anything)