Wellington's ITM Cup dominance continued when they beat Auckland 38-16 in their clash at Westpact Stadium on Saturday.
Wellington's ITM Cup dominance continued when they beat Auckland 38-16 in their top-of-the-table clash at Westpact Stadium on Saturday.
The hosts' victory was thanks to a fine team effort but their openside flanker Ardie Savea deserves a special word of praise after delivering a superb allround perfromance.
The 19-year-old wreaked havoc at the breakdowns, where he won several turnovers, put his body on the line with a huge defensive display and was rewarded with a try for his efforts in the second half.
Wellington got the game's opening points via a penalty from Lima Sopoaga in the eighth minute, after Auckland's pack was penalised for illegal scrummaging but Simon Hickey replied with a three-pointer for Auckland after the hosts' forwards were pinned for a similar offence.
Sopoaga succeeded with two further penalties and Hickey added one before Wellington scored the first try of the match in the 30th minute.
This was thanks to a fine individual effort from Sean Treeby, who crossed the whitewash after showing the Auckland defence a clean pair of heels from the halfway line.
The centre was put in the clear after Savea won a turnover at a ruck, before offloading to Brad Shields, who passed to the on-rushing Treeby, who beat four defenders on his way to the try-line.
Sopoaga added the extras and Wellington got their second try, five minutes later, when Api Naikatini scored after the Lions forwards went on a drive from a line-out close to Auckland's try-line.
This gave them a 21-6 lead at the break and Sopoaga made it 24-6 shortly after the restart with his fourth penalty.
Hickey added another three-pointer for Auckland, shortly afterwards, before Wellington upped the ante to take further control of the match.
In the 49th minute, Savea pounced on a loose ball inside Auckland's 22, after a mistake from Sean Polwart, to score the hosts' third try. Sopoaga converted to give Wellington an unassailable 31-9 lead.
Matters got worse for Auckland in the 65th minute when replacement back Melani Nanai was yellow carded for a late no arms tackle on Alapati Leiua.
Wellington capitalised on their numerical advantage when Motu Matu'u scored their bonus-point try, in the 69th minute, after Tim Bateman did well to draw in two defenders before offloading to the hooker, who got in for an easy try.
Sopoaga slotted the conversion to seal the win although the visitors scored a consolation try, from close quarters, through Nathan Vella in the 78th minute which Hickey converted.
The win means Wellington are still unbeaten after nine matches and they consolidates their position at the top of the table. The table toppers are now eight-points ahead of Auckland, who are in second place.
Tries: Treeby, Naikatini, Savea, Matu'u
Cons: Sopoaga 3
Pens: Sopoaga 4
Pens: Hickey 3
Yellow card: Nanai (65th minute, dangerous tackle)
Wellington: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Joe Hill, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Tomasi Palu, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Api Naikatini, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Genesis Mamea, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Cory Jane.
Auckland: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Tenina Sauileoge, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Hadleigh Parkes (c), 11 George Moala, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Wayne Ngaluafe, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Sean Polwart, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 So'otala Fa'aso'o, 19 Sean Brookman, 20 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 21 Junior Poluleuligaga, 22 Melani Nanai.
Referee: Jonathon White