Thrush at a loss to explain Lions' playoff exit

Last updated 05:00 22/10/2012
Jeremy Thrush
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FORLORN LEADER: Wellington captain Jeremy Thrush is crestfallen at the end of Saturday’s semifinal loss to Auckland, in front of a crowd of 6321. ‘‘As soon as that whistle blew I was pretty gutted,’’ he said.

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Jeremy Thrush didn't need to wait for the inquisition as his rugby groundhog day continued at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

When the final whistle blew on Wellington's 33-22 NPC semifinal loss to Auckland, the Lions captain slumped on to his haunches and buried his head in his hands.

"I don't know, I just don't know," he said when asked what went wrong.

"I guess I've learned a few lessons during this time of year, especially with this team. I don't know, but it would be good to come out on top of the ledger in just one of them to be honest.

"Not to be rude, but as soon as that whistle blew I was pretty gutted because I knew I'd have to come and answer your [the media's] questions about the finals, because with the Lions that's [what] happens.

"We just didn't carry our momentum of the last couple of weeks into this game and that was something we wanted to do.

"It just didn't happen."

If fans are looking for a silver lining they could find it in the face of a Lions captain who still cares as deeply as he did when he made his debut in 2006. That season Wellington lost the NPC final 37-31 to Waikato.

Six years on Thrush and blindside Ross Filipo were back for more, while halfback Alby Mathewson had switched sides.

Thrush stoically tried to take the blame for not taking the kickoff that led to the crucial intercept try that swung the momentum of the match.

In reality, it was not the skipper's fault, first five-eighth Tim Bateman getting closer to the truth.

"It looked good on the scoreboard [at 22-14], but it didn't feel great," he said. "We made crucial errors at crucial times in the game and we let them back in. That's finals rugby, little mistakes get punished.

"Talking to the guys in the changing room everyone had a little moment in the game they were disappointed about.

"And Auckland played really well, they disrupted a lot of our ball, scrum, lineout and ruck ball. You can't win games when you have bad ball like that."

Auckland were the more physical of the two sides from the start with hard, direct running from the pack along with midfielders Hadleigh Parkes and Malakai Fekitoa.

Captain Daniel Braid revealed they'd targeted Lions No 8 and game-breaker Ardie Savea and rushed up in defence in Wellington's quarter to stop their counterattack.

The Lions never found any real continuity, and made crucial errors in the final quarter as the match and the season slipped away.

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It was all too familiar.

- Wellington

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