Lions Outclass Harbour
The Wellington Lions took until the second half to settle to their work, but then found their rhythm to dispatch QBE Insurance North Harbour 37 -13 at Westpac Stadium.
The first half was played in fine conditions and reached a 13 – 13 stalemate after 40 minutes. Both sides had converted their two penalty opportunities each, and scored a converted try.
Harbour’s came first after 19 minutes when their defence forced a desperate
Wellington pass which was intercepted by Andrew Mailei who fed the speedy Nafi Tuitavake – try under the posts from a 70m breakout.
Wellington’s try came after a powerful run from Hosea Gear down the left wing resulted in successive phases on the Harbour tryline. Captain Jacob Ellison’s effort to power over next to the ruck a few minutes before half time was the only soft moment by a Harbour forward pack which had otherwise held the upper hand.
The half-time stats showed
Harbour ahead of the home team in territory, possession and breakdowns. Their dominance at scrum time and lineout had allowed them to set the pace of the game while
Wellington had fed off the power and class of their backline to bring them into attacking range. It was set up for a potentially intriguing second 40 minutes –
Harbour structure and defence against the class of a backline studded with All Black pedigree.
The half time talk from Jamie Joseph proved the telling moment in the match. His forwards came back much more cohesive and focussed and took the game to
Harbour. This platform provided the space and time for the
Wellington attack, which began to thrive in the building rain. The first try came off a lineout drive on the Harbour 22. Spinning the ball wide found the unmarked right wing Alipati Leuia who scored only 6 minutes from the resumption of play. The second try in the 59th minute was from a strong scrum 5m from the Harbour line, and despite great defence So’oialo fed Mathewson, whose pop pass to Ma’a Nonu running through a gap earned 5 points. The third try came in the 68th minute and was sparked by Corey Jane fielding a kick about the halfway line. He cut down the left wing and linked with Rodney So’oialo who passed to Gear. His pivot and strength in the tackle saw the tryline crossed for his second and the Lions sought after bonus point try - the gate was open for a complete rout in the last 10 minutes of the half.
Harbour did not back off though and managed to suppress
Wellington for the remainder of the match and the score finished at 37 - 13.
Harbour’s second 40 minutes was marred by a steady stream of dropped ball, destroying the poise and fluidity shown in the first half. What had promised to be 40 minutes of close struggle became an overwhelming display by the Lions. Victor Vito and Serge Lilo asserted their presence in the loose more and Neemia Tialata stepped up against his All Black team-mate Tony Woodcock to take the second half points in their private contest.
Best on Ground:
QBE Insurance North Harbour: Anthony Boric; James King; Filo Paulo; Scott Uren; Rudi Wulf; Michael Reid
Wellington Lions: Victor Vito; Corey Jane; Fa’atonu Fili; Hosea Gear; Serge Lilo; Rodney So’oialo; Piri Weepu