Wellington strengthened their position at the top of the ITM Cup table after claiming a 33-16 win over Bay of Plenty in Wellington on Thursday.
The win is the Lions' sixth in a row but unlike their previous triumphs they could not secure a try-scoring bonus point as they only scored three tries.
Jeffery Toomaga-Allen scored the first of those in the 10th minute after Lima Sopoaga opened the scoring with an early penalty. Toomaga-Allen gathered a pass inside the Steamers' 22 and shrugged off four challenges before scoring his try. Sopoaga converted before Willie Ripia scored the visitors' first points via a penalty in the 18th minute.
Tim Bateman then scored a fine individual try to extend the Lions' lead. Bateman ran onto a flat pass from Sopoaga on Bay of Plenty's 10-metre line and sold Kendrick Lynn a neat dummy before outpacing the cover defence to score Wellington's second five-pointer. Sopoaga added the extras, and succeeded with another penalty shortly afterwards, before Ripia kicked a penalty on the stroke of half-time to give the hosts a 20-6 lead at the break.
Bay of Plenty got the first points of the second half when Dave Thomas scored a runaway try, in the 45th minute, after the visitors turned defence into attack after winning a turnover close to their try-line. Ripia slotted the conversion to narrow the Lions' lead to seven points.
Sopoaga and Ripia then traded penalties to give Wellington a 26-16 lead by the 60th minute. Shaun Treeby scored Wellington's final try in the 67th minute after fine counter-rucking from Brad Shields and Eric Sione secured Wellington a turnover close to the Steamers' try-line. Sopoaga converted and although the home side went in search of their fourth try, Bay of Plenty's defence held firm during the closing stages.
Tries: Toomaga-Allen, Bateman, Treeby
Cons: Sopoaga 3
Pens: Sopoaga 4
For Bay of Plenty:
Pens: Ripia 3
Wellington: 15 Charlie Ngatai, 14 Ambrose Curtis, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Joe Hill, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Victor Vito (capt), 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Genesis Mamea, 5 Kaipati Gaualofa, 4 Brad Shields, 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Motu Matu'u, 1 Reggie Goodes.
Replacements: 16 John Schwalger, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Pau Halifihi, 19 Adam Hill, 20 Tomasi Palu, 21 Andrew Wells, 22 Afa Fa'atau.
Bay of Plenty: 15 Dave Thomas, 14 Tino Nemani, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Kimami Sitauti, 10 Willie Ripia (capt), 9 Josh Hall, 8 Carl Axtens, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Joe Tupe, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Johan Bardoul, 3 Albert Anae, 2 Joe Royal, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Pingi Tala'apitaga, 18 Beau Williams, 19 Kieran Black, 20 Te Aihe Toma, 21 Nick Evemy, 22 Elliott Hagan.
Referee: Michael Lash