Wellington have survived a spirited Manawatu challenge to run away with a 38-24 win in their ITM Cup preseason match at the Hutt Recreation Ground today.
Both sides would have taken plenty from an entertaining match that saw 10 tries scored despite slippery conditions.
Wellington No 8 Genesis Mamea put his hand up for further inspection for the home side with his powerful ball carrying, while wing Belgium Tuatagaloa had some bright moments out wide.
For Manawatu, big second five-eighth Matenga Baker provided momentum in the midfield and wing George Tilsley looked dangerous every time he touched the ball.
The visitor's led 19-17 at halftime, but despite some flimsy and dysfunctional defence, Wellington had the superior attack and with a mountain of second half possession never really looked like losing.
Tilsley opened the scoring after two minutes when he ghosted outside first five Nathan George and through his former Tawa club mate Shaun Treeby to the line.
Impressive Wellington centre Alapati Leiua sparked an 80 metre counterattack that ended with Treeby cutting through then turning the ball in to halfback Kayne Hammington to level the scores.
First five-eighth Tim Batemen got reward for backing up when he scored in the corner after another nice touch from Leiua.
Big prop Eric Sione was driven over from a lineout and at 17-7 the home side seemed to have settled into their work.
But Manawatu continued to find holes in the Wellington defence and Baker strolled over after a tap penalty, then Tilsley finished off a nice break from fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder to give his side the lead heading into the break.
When both sides made a raft of changes the match lost some structure, but Wellington enjoyed the lion's share of possession.
Tuatagaloa punished a poor clearing kick with a strong counterattacking run then linked with former All Black Ross Filipo, who found replacement halfback Frae Wilson to make it 24-19.
Openside Scott Fuglistaller was next to capitalise on another good lineout drive and at 31-19 the result was in the bag.
Bateman took a seat and with Seminar Manu settling in to a rejigged backline, Wellington were guilty of forcing too many passes in the final quarter.
Manawatu replacement Willie Paia'aua showed good pace to skip outside Ope Peleseuma, but the Wellingtonian made amends for his miss by scoring the final try of the match.
The two sides will meet in Palmerston North on August 24 in the opening round of the ITM Cup.
Wellington 38 (Kayne Hammington, Tim Bateman, Eric Sione, Frae Wilson, Scott Fuglistaller, Ope Peleseuma tries, Jason Woodward 3 cons, Charlie Ngtai con) Manawatu 24 (George Tilsley 2, Matenga Baker, Willie Paia,aua tries, Nathan George 2 cons). HT: 17-19
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