The "perfect" performance might have eluded Wellington again yesterday, but at least they left Whangarei with the maximum five competition points.
Beating Northland at home is always a tricky assignment and while Wellington's 30-10 win at Toll Stadium left a lot to be desired, it did maintain their enviable record of five bonus-point wins in as many starts this season.
Canterbury have won this National Provincial Competition for five successive years, often at a canter. Wellington now lead the standings by two points, from Auckland, and look like the first team truly capable of ending a red-and-black run which began back in 2008.
Not because the Lions have blown every opponent off the park this season. The truth is they haven't.
No, the encouraging thing about this Wellington is they've found ways to win while playing poorly. Previous Lions sides wouldn't have beaten Northland yesterday, nor North Harbour or Manawatu last week, for that matter.
Not only have they won, they've accumulated bonus-points as well, which was a hallmark of the Rob Penney-coached Canterbury teams that began this run of five titles on the trot.
Penney's sides were never satisfied, they always strove for more and they're things which shone through in the post-match comments of Wellington captain Victor Vito last night.
He was disappointed with his players after brilliant counter-attacking tries to hooker Motu Matu'u and lock Ross Filipo put them 10-0 up after 14 minutes.
Wellington's plan had been to go through the middle of Northland, but the brace of tries conned the Lions into going wide and that didn't impress their skipper.
"That's the true test. You score those sorts of tries and you've really got to look at your processes and decide how much of it was pure luck and how much was actually built phases," Vito said after playing his 50th match for Wellington.
"That's the balancing act that we've got to get right at the moment. We're starting to think that we've opened up teams and hurt them in the first 10 minutes with two quick tries, but really they're going to come back hissing and we haven't quite put together any phases yet."
He said his team had to discover a "ruthless" streak or risk being hurt when it comes to playing the likes of Auckland or the third-placed Cantabs.
It was all very well to defend their line staunchly early in the second half, while leading just 15-10, but that kind of desperation was just as important further up the field, he said.
On the plus side, having withstood Northland's pressure, the Lions were able to march downfield and score tries through replacement wing Ambrose Curtis and centre Tim Bateman.
"We've got to give teams like [this Thursday's opponent] Bay of Plenty and Northland due respect.
"We only had a five-point lead for most of the game and if it wasn't for some individually-brilliant tries we probably wouldn't have pulled away there and need to keep things in perspective and see that we're still a long way off our perfect game," said Vito.
Wing Matt Proctor look like he'll play no further part in the campaign, after injuring ligaments in his left knee. Lions manager Evan Crawford said the early indications were "not good" and that Proctor would be further assessed today.
Meanwhile, Manawatu were 15-12 victors over North Harbour at Palmerston North yesterday.
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