Champions Taranaki made a disastrous start to their ITM Cup campaign when they suffered a 19-14 loss to Wellington in New Plymouth on Saturday.
The visitors, who were relegated to the Championship at the end of last season, were full value for their win and outscored Taranaki by three tries to one.
Wellington raced into a 12-0 lead at half-time thanks to tries by their captain Brad Shields and fellow loose forward Vaea Fifita. This after Taranaki were reduced to 14 men when Kurt Baker was yellow carded for a reckless tackle.
Taranaki fought back and reduced the deficit to a point thanks to two penalties from Marty McKenzie and a Cody Rei try.
Wellington sealed their win though when Joe Hill scored their third try in the 73rd minute and McKenzie added a further penalty three minutes later which secured a losing bonus point for Taranaki.
Pens: McKenzie 3
Yellow card: Baker
Tries: Shields, Fifita, Hill
Cons: Bentley 2
Taranaki: 15 James Marshall (c), 14 Codey Rei, 13 Sean Wainui, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Kurt Baker, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Iopu Iopu-Aso, 7 Berny Hall, 6 Mitchell Crosswell, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Blade Thomson, 3 Angus Taavao, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Caleb Mawson, 17 Reuben O’Neill, 18 Sione Lea, 19 Riki Hoeata, 20 Mitchell Brown, 21 David Ormrod, 22 Jackson Ormon/Avon Lewis, 23 Latu Vaeno.
Wellington: 15 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Joe Hill, 10 Jonny Bentley, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Brad Shields (c), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Hoani Matenga, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Leni Apisai, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 James O'Reilly, 17 John Schwalger, 18 Ben May, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Greg Foe, 21 Tomasi Palu, 22 Wes Goosen, 23 Tomasi Alosio.
Referee: Chris Pollock