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ITM Cup - Round 10
Sopoaga steers Wellington home
ESPNscrum Staff
August 18, 2011
Wellington's Frae Wilson is shackled by the Southland defence, Wellington v Southland, ITM Cup, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand, August 18, 2011
Wellington's Frae Wilson is shackled by the Southland defence © Getty Images
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Wellington eased their relegation fears with a 30-25 victory over fellow strugglers Southland in their ITM Cup clash at Wellington Stadium on Thursday night.

Entering the match seventh and last in the Premiership standings, Wellington and sixth-placed Southland both targeted victory to ease their concerns about a drop into the second-tier Championship. And it was Wellington who achieved the result they wanted, helped in no small measure by highly competent young fly-half Lima Sopoaga, who turned in a craftman's performance in bitterly cold, windy and wet conditions.

His goalkicking proved the difference as Sopoaga landed six of seven attempts for 15 points to complement a brace of tries from promising No 8 Brad Shields and another for fullback Apoua Stewart. Southland, who earned a bonus point for scoring four tries, succeeded with only two of six, a failing which hurt them in the end.

Shields capped a vigorous match with two second-half tries, both through his using his strength off a set piece deep in Southland territory. His second effort gave his side an eight-point buffer with six minutes remaining after Southland had led 22-16 midway through the spell on the back of two tries to second five-eighth Matt Saunders.

Counties Manukau bounced back from an early 10-0 deficit to beat North Harbour 40-32 in Pukekohe on Wednesday night. A try from Rudi Wulf and the boot of Ben Botica put North Harbour in control before Counties captain and hooker Mark Price went over from close range. And the hosts went on to take an 18-13 half-time lead thanks largely to a stunning individual try from Tim Nanai-Williams.

Flanker Mark Selwyn extended their lead shortly after the restart by powering over off a ruck and although North Harbour hit back with a try from No.8 Matt Luamanu, Counties strengthened their grip on the game with a score from wing Sherwin Stowers. That gave Counties a ten-point buffer and Luamanu second try was only good enough for a losing bonus point.

Tasman upset the form book and recorded an impressive 30-28 victory over Auckland at Trafalgar Park on Tuesday night. The win means Tasman have moved off the base of the ITM Championship at the expense of rivals North Harbour. The victory echoed their 2009 triumph over Auckland at the same venue where Tasman prevailed 12-8.

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