Leiua dominant as Lions extend winning streak

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2012
Alapati Leiua
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Lions' Alapati Leiua goes in for a try.

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Man-of-the-match Alapati Leiua was talking about himself, but it might as well have been the Wellington Lions in general.

"I'm pretty happy with the way I'm playing. Not just for me, but for the team as well. Be humble and give the credit to the boys for making my job easier," Leiua said following Wellington's 40-8 thrashing of Southland at Westpac Stadium yesterday.

In case it's escaped anyone's attention, Wellington are a seriously good rugby team. Leiua, himself, is as good as any of them, but the players and coaches remain insistent upon talking themselves down.

But at some point, given the touch-ups they've now given to Manawatu, Hawke's Bay and Southland, someone in the Lions' camp might have to concede that this team can play a bit.

Perhaps that moment will come once Saturday's clash with Canterbury, in Christchurch, is out of the way.

"We're pleased to have won our first three games, but I think we'd all agree that [in] the three games we've played we'd have to produce better efforts than those three to get a result against Canterbury," Wellington coach Chris Boyd said.

"They're four-times playing through champions, they've still got a lot of their roster back and they're clearly, in my mind, one of two sides that are near the top of the tree. So it'll be a good contest, the boys will be looking forward to going down there and giving it a rumble."

The last line, though slightly of a throwaway nature, says quite a bit about Boyd's team. Wellington have had an apologetic look about their play in the last couple of years, which definitely is not the case now.

This lot are prepared to confront their opposition and to dictate terms. The dividends have been quick in coming, as was the case again yesterday.

In Leiua and openside flanker Ardie Savea, Wellington had two players who were simply too much for Southland to handle. Both scored a brace of tries and were dominant in every collision situation.

Again, the Lions' tight-five was exemplary, which enabled first five-eighth Tim Bateman to do what he does best. There are some astonishing athletes around these days, but not all of them are actually good rugby players.

Bateman's no brute, but he's definitely a player and his vision and ball-playing ability are proving to be huge assets to the Lions.

As Leiua pointed out, everything starts up front and Wellington were quick to subdue Southland there. The Stags weren't allowed into the match and tries to Leiua and Savea helped the Lions establish a 23-3 halftime lead.

Referee Matt Muir had a big game too, with Boyd saying he gave up counting how many penalties his team had conceded by the time the tally reached 16. Muir's influence meant the second half didn't flow as well, but Wellington were still able to add further tries to Leiua, Savea and Dane Coles.

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