Wellington secured their spot in the ITM Cup Final when they claimed a deserved 41-10 win over Counties in Wellington on Friday.
Wellington secured their spot in the ITM Cup Final when they claimed a deserved 41-10 victory over Counties-Manukau in Wellington on Friday.
As the scoreline suggests, this was a one-sided affair and the home side underlined their dominance by scoring six tries to a solitary five-pointer from the visitors.
Wellington took the lead in the 12th minute when Frae Wilson scored the opening try after Brad Shields pounced on a loose ball just outside Counties' 22.
He offloaded to John Schwalger, who put Victor Vito in the clear and the Wellinton skipper did well to throw an inside pass to Wilson who got in for the five-pointer.
Although Lima Sopoaga failed to add the extras, that try seemed the catalyst for Wellington to start dominating – as they have done in most of their matches this season.
Sopoaga extended their lead in the 28th minute when Counties infringed at a ruck, after a barnstorming run from Motu Matu'u which saw his progress halted inches from the try-line.
The home side's dominance were rewarded with their second try, in the 35th minute, when Alapati Leiua rounded off after running on to a Schwalger pass from close quarters.
This after Wilson spun the ball wide after Matt Proctor was tackled close to Counties' whitewash. With several of the visitors' defenders caught up in the ensuing ruck, Leiua was left with an easy run-in.
Sopoaga converted and Wellington went into the sheds leading 15-0.
Counties made a quick comeback when their captain Fritz Lee scored their first try shortly after the restart.
The big number eight barged over from close quarters, in the 44th minute, after running on to a perfectly-timed pass from Ahsee Tuala. This after the visitors took the ball through several phases, inside Wellington's half, in the build-up.
Wellington struck back two minutes later when Shaun Treeby ripped the ball from Jimmy Tupou's grasp and raced away to score under the posts without having a finger laid on him.
Sopoaga slotted the conversion which gave the hosts a comfortable 22-5 lead but Counties upped the ante and tried gallantly to narrow the gap.
Jarrod Firth though he had done just that in the 60th minute when he went over in the left-hand corner but the television match official ruled that the final pass from Sam Vaka was forward.
Five minutes later, the hosts sealed the win when Faifili Levave crashed over, with two defenders on his back, after gathering a pass from Vito in front of the try-line.
They added their fifth try in the 71st minute when Tim Bateman did brilliantly to offload – despite being tackled – to Ambrose Curtis who scored under the posts.
And Leiua got in for his second try after Ardie Savea and Levave combined to put him in the clear, in the left-hand corner in the 76th minute.
Despite the huge defeat, Counties battled on and they were rewarded for their efforts when Tony Pulu scored a consolation try shortly before the final whistle.
The victory secures Wellington a home final against either Canterbury or Auckland – who play on Saturday- and this performance will boost the Lions' confidence of ending the Christchurch-based outfit's five-year reign as champions.
Tries: Wilson, Leiua 2, Treeby, Levave, Curtis
Cons: Sopoaga 4
For Counties Manukau:
Tries: Lee, Pulu
Wellington: 15 Matt Proctor, 14 Joe Hill, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Alapati Leiua, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Frae Wilson, 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 Kaipati Gaualofa, 19 Faifili Levave, 20 Adam Hill, 21 Tomasi Palu, 22 Ambrose Curtis.
Counties Manukau: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Kane Hancy, 8 Fritz Lee (c), 7 Maama Vaipulu, 6 Adam Cathcart, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Ronald Raaymakers, 3 Matt Talaese, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Jarrod Firth.
Replacements: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Simon Lemalu, 18 Sikeli Nabou, 19 Mark Selwyn, 20 Lucky Palamo, 21 Ki Anufe, 22 Sam Vaka.