Northland embarrass Wellington in NPC blowout
Wellington's early season woes continued today as they were embarrassed 35-5 by Northland.
In previous years this would have been a shock upset, but after a first-up home defeat to a youthful Waikato side, another loss for the Lions, their first against Northland since 2000, was never out of the question in Whangarei.
But even the most enthusiastic Northland supporters could not have predicted their biggest win over Wellington, which eclipsed the 37-10 result in 1989.
Chris Boyd's side has endured a horror injury run which stripped them of half their contracted players, but a union of such size should be coping better. This was a clear example of their depth being brutally exposed.
Wellington have consistently been perennial bridesmaids - again losing the final to Canterbury last year - but if their efforts in the opening two rounds were any gauge, they would be well off the pace this season.
Northland's Fijian wing Jone Macilai, who missed much of last season with a dislocated elbow, was the star. He showed why the Blues were keeping tabs on him, scoring two opportunistic tries directly from Wellington errors and made two other memorable bursts of speed - one which saw fullback Mathew Wright have the ball knocked out of his hands in a covering tackle over the line.
After losing to Manawatu at home last week, Northland responded accordingly with this bonus-point victory and a significant Premiership scalp.
Their commitment could not be faulted and they always endeavoured to adopt an adventurous style. They reaped the rewards to finish with five tries after taking a deserved 15-0 half time lead.
First five-eighth Dan Hawkins was instrumental in controlling the first half, making good use of a strong wind advantage, and flanker Dan Pryor collected a brace in a typically industrious display.
A dominant set-piece was the only positive for Wellington.
With Motu Matu'u back at hooker, their scrum was powerful, but basic errors, wayward passing and a lack of patience constantly haunted them.
Left wing Tau Mamea had an afternoon to forget, dropping the ball cold on three occasions, but he was not alone. Boyd would not enjoy reviewing the match tape.
It took Wellington 66 minutes to get on the scoreboard through fullback Jason Woodward, who alongside captain Brad Shields and Matu'u tried hard. Too often, though, their lateral attack drifted across field waiting for someone to straighten.
The forwards relied on predictable one-out running and there was a general lack of cohesion from halves pairing Frae Wilson and James So'olialo.
Northland prop Matt Talaese and visiting front-rower Reggie Goodes were casualties, but Wellington's severely dented pride suffered the biggest blow.
Northland 35 Jone Macilai, Dan Pryor 2, Warren Dunn tries 2, Dan Hawkins pen 2, con 2 Wellington 5 Jason Woodward tries.