Wellington overpower plucky Manawatu
September 1, 2013
Wellington fullback Charlie Ngatai backed up from Wednesday's defeat of North Harbour
© Getty Images
A frantic final quarter saw Wellington awake from their slumber to secure a flattering 42-15 win over neighbours Manawatu at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
Securing even 20 points looked out of reach at one stage as Wellington made a number of attacks, only to be let down by poor handling in the opening half as they trailed 12-15. But once their passes stuck and their confidence lifted the ITM Cup Premiership table-toppers were simply no match for a despondent Manawatu.
Given the scoreline it's hard to imagine that Manawatu held an 8-0 lead until the 26th minute, when Wellington wing Joe Hill scored his side's first try. That lead was extended to 15-5 when Nic Stirzaker scored his second try of the first half. In the end, however, Manawatu's lead proved to be shallow as they were held scoreless for 51 minutes and conceded 37 consecutive points.
Wellington picked up five competition points for the fourth straight match to sit comfortably at the top of the ITM Cup Premiership. Manawatu remain last in the Championship with a solitary point from three matches. The emphatic victory will be a source of relief for Wellington, whose first half was riddled with errors that were mopped up at the half-time break.
Nathan George was handed a maiden run-on start for Manawatu and the move paid dividends almost immediately. The No.10 gave the visitors a 3-0 lead in the opening two minutes of the match before Nick Croswell had to leave the field just seven minutes later. It didn't bother George. The wily fly-half's chipped kick was regathered before it landed in Stirzaker's hands to give the visitors an emphatic 8-0 lead.
It was a lesson in finishing for Wellington as the hosts struggled to hold onto possession when on attack. Two tries in the final 15 minutes of the first half, however, ensured they were in with a chance trailing just 12-15 at the break.
Wellington's attack continued into the second half and gained plenty of traction in the final quarter. Where once there was confusion there was now confidence as passes finally stuck and tackles began to slip for Manawatu.
That transformation was reflected in Lima Sopoaga's goalkicking. Having kicked just one of four in the first half, the Wellington fly-half nailed three penalties to give his side a 21-15 lead with 10 minutes to play. From there Wellington broke free and errors started to creep into Manawatu's game. A poor set-piece performance was hampered by Crosswell's early departure as Wellington pummelled 21 points in the final eight minutes of the match.
The hosts have a week to prepare for their next encounter against Northland in Whangarei, while Manawatu host North Harbour, also on Sunday.
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