Wellington sink Taranaki in season opener
All Black Cory Jane tweeted a bone was sticking out of his finger after Wellington opened their season with a surprisingly compelling 23-5 victory over Taranaki at Yarrow Stadium.
Jane started at fullback and was keen to make a statement after being named as injury cover in the extended 34-man All Blacks' Tri Nations squad. He produced a prominent display, cutting into a backline before leaving the field in the second-half.
"Damn it...bone came out of my finger..Off to the hospital now.. did u see me trying to tackle wif one arm haha," Jane said via the social networking service.
"Got to the hospital and they put me in a wheelchair haha...It's only my finger....I still sat in it tho and they pushed me haha."
Jane's complaint stole the limelight from relatively unknown team-mate Jason Woodward. The 21-year-old winger signalled his arrival with a hat-trick.
These local inter-franchise contests always have a little extra. Taranaki love nothing more than attempting to trip up their Hurricanes big brother while battle lines are drawn for Super Rugby contracts.
The Colin Cooper-coached home side have assembled a strong roster this year and were expected give the condensed competition a decent shake. With 10 Super Rugby players in their starting line-up, including discarded Hurricanes hooker Andrew Hore, their favouritism was justified.
But on this effort, pre-season predictions need adjusting.
Wellington had the better of a match dominated by close-quarter exchanges and punishing defence. The Lions backline also boasted Piri Weepu, but repeated errors close to line cost the visitors, who left it to comeback kid Michael Hobbs to reward early ascendancy with a measly three-points.
'Naki first five-eighths Beaduen Barrett is the Hurricanes' prime target to replace Chiefs-bound Aaron Cruden next year, but while the under-20s star showed glimpses of finesse with ball in hand, his three shots at goal - two penalties and a conversion - were far from impressive.
A healthy New Plymouth crowd were silenced as Taranaki's rush midfield defence were exposed once too often, conceding the opening try after Highlander's pivot Lima Sopoaga sent impressive Woodward in for his first try on the stroke of half-time for a 8-0 lead.
Led by their traditional rumbling forward pack, the Amber and Blacks appeared fired up after the break. With Ma'a Nonu heading to the Blues, Jayden Hayward realises there is an opening at the 'Canes and he staked a claim when fending off a flat-footed and weak attempted tackle from Weepu to score.
Dane Coles is earmarked for the Canes' starting hooker berth in 2012 after biding his time behind the departed Hore. The rangy rake displayed skills of a silky back as he palmed off blindside Chris Walker and sprinted 20-metres to gift Woodward his second and a 15-5 advantage.
And when Woodward sealed his three-peat 10-minutes from time - the match was over.
Wellington 23: Jason Woodward 3 try, Michael Hobbs pen 2, con 3
Taranaki 5: Jayden Hayward try