Wellington now need luck and lots of birdies

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 07/12/2012

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A brace of wins and crossed fingers are what Wellington require to qualify for the national men's interprovincial semifinals today after a narrow, costly defeat to Auckland.

Wellington suffered their first loss of the week, 3-2 to Auckland at Dunedin's Balmacewen yesterday, which left them in a four-way duel for two playoff spots in division one.

They face defending champions Southland this morning and Waikato in the afternoon. Southland, Manawatu-Wanganui, Auckland and Wellington are all on three points, but Wellington's issue is a poor differential with only 11 matches won, which needs other results to go their way.

"If we play like that tomorrow we won't be too far away. If we win both games we've got a pretty good chance," veteran Wellington No 5 Peter Brinsdon said.

"We played a lot better collectively than we did [on Wednesday]. It just comes down to getting a wee bit more luck rolling our way on the greens."

Brinsdon can attest to that after he lost 2 and 1 to Auckland's Josh Leitch in the leadoff match. One down with two to play, Brinsdon watched Leitch birdie the 17th then lipped out with his own birdie putt from half the distance.

"You're looking like you're holding the advantage on a hole then someone bins a putt and all of a sudden you're under the pump.

"Even the matches we've won have come down to a couple of putts. We hung in there because we were behind in all but James Donnelly's match."

Donnelly was 4-up at the turn against Tae Koh before winning 5 and 3. Queensland-based Fraser Maclachlan continued his good run with a 2-up win over Nick Voke in the No 2 match, sealing the win with birdies on the 16th and 18th.

Adam Church was 1-down heading into the last, but an errant drive cost him against Jonathan Ratcliffe, and No 1 Marc Jennings trailed for the entire back nine before losing 3 and 2 to New Zealand rep Sam An.

Wellington coach Geoff Smart was ruing his team's sluggish front nine, bar Donnelly. "It was a disappointing day. It was there for us to win but we didn't start well enough," Smart said.

Manawatu-Wanganui, who lost 3-2 to Wellington on day one, strung together their third straight victory and go into the final day 1.5 matches ahead of their capital rivals.

They crucially upset Southland 3-2 yesterday to inflict their first defeat of the week. Josh Munn beat Tyler McLean 1-up in the No 1 match while Trent Munn and Junior Tatana got Manawatu-Wanganui over the line.

It will be survival of the fittest today with back-to-back rounds at the end of a long week on a course rated the toughest to walk in the country.

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In division two, Bay of Plenty look assured of one semifinal spot while Otago, Tasman and Northland battle out the other.

- The Dominion Post

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