Lions thump Auckland to keep streak alive
Auckland hammered at Westpac StadiumTOBY ROBSON AT WESTPAC STADIUM
Wellington is taking on juggernaut proportions after rolling Auckland 38-16 to book a home semifinal and keep their unbeaten season intact.
It was hard to know what was more impressive, the four tries the Lions scored, or their ability to keep Auckland try-less until the final minutes as the home team chalked up their ninth straight win.
The visitors went into the match with their tails up after thrashing Canterbury and with only one previous loss this season.
They will limp away from the capital knowing they were dominated up front and out-skilled in most other facets by a very good team with very good individuals.
None more so than openside Ardie Savea, who when he wasn't turning over ball was causing havoc with his running game.
To put some perspective on Wellington's season, their winning run has now equaled those of the 1981, 1986 and 2008 sides.
If coach Chris Boyd's bunch can beat Hawke's Bay in Napier on Thursday they will tie the province's single season winning run of 10 matches.
That was achieved under coach Earle Kirton in 1986 a year the NPC title came to the capital and the 7443 in the stands will have left believing a repeat is possible. Adding to the positives was the successful return of wings Cory Jane and Alapati Leiua and try scoring lock Api Naikatini.
Leiua looked as though he had been playing all season, breaking the line with his first touch and stripping a defender to save a first half try.
Jane had a less eventful comeback barely touching the ball after coming on for Joe Hill at halftime, but produced one trademark run down the touchline.
By that stage Wellington already had this match in hand after tries to second five eighth Shaun Treeby and lock Api Naikatini and they added two more to Savea and hooker Motu Matu'u by the end.
Auckland will be disappointed after not really firing a shot, at one stage playing with 14 men after reserve Melani Nanai was yellow-carded for a late charge on Charlie Ngatai.
Centre Malakai Fekitoa tried hard but like his team's efforts lacked accuracy.
Auckland had hung in for the opening 25 minutes, but didn't really look threatening.
Wellington's first try was born of their individual talents, Treeby showing a startling turn of pace to score after Savea had snaffled a turnover on half way.
But their second try said much about the match and the season.
First five eighth Lima Sopoaga was correctly denied by the TMO after losing the ball inches before he slammed it on the try line, but the Lions didn't blink driving Naikatini over from the ensuing lineout.
The build up said much about Wellington's intentions. They had successfully flooded the touchline with their forwards, something they'd practiced all week winning each yard with their physical presence.
And they'd reasserted that dominance from the lineout. Savea's fist pump said it all and Wellington's pack had an ominous spring in their steps as they headed to the sheds comfortably in charge and not just on the scoreboard, which read 21-6.
Savea tore in from a ruck turnover for the Lions third try and Matu'u dived over after receiving the final pass from centre Tim Bateman with 10 minutes to play.
Wellington 38 (Shaun Treeby, Api Naikatini, Ardie Savea, Motu Matu'u tries, Lima Sopoaga 4 pens, 3 cons) Auckland 16 (Nathan Vella try, Simon Hickey 3 pens, con). HT: 21-6.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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