Waikato missed a golden chance to topple national provincial rugby championship front runners for the second time in three games but in the end Wellington's standout defence won the game 19-14 in Hamilton tonight.
Two weeks ago the battling Mooloos downed second-placed Auckland 42-24, ending their unbeaten run, and last night they were in with a grand chance of stopping premiership leaders Wellington's winning streak at seven.
However, the Wellington Lions led all the way after the 12th minute of the match and triumphed three tries to one on the back of outstanding defence after an early try blitz as the home side dominated the second half.
Waikato scored the first and last points of the opening spell but inbetween Wellington dominated possession and territory and threatened to run riot with their forwards running rampant and their backs looking equally dangerous with so much ball in hand.
However, the home side limited the damage to just two converted tries and finished the half strongly to go to halftime trailing just 14-8.
And it could have been even better for Waikato had fullback Trent Renata's fine goal-kicking form not suddenly deserted him.
Renata kicked the first points of the half with a 35 metre penalty goal to bring up his 400th point for the province to become the sixth best points scorer in Waikato history, but he missed his other three attempts of the half.
Lima Sopoaga also missed his first kick for Wellington but when big winger Afa Fa'atau blasted over in the left corner after brilliant work out wide by Victor Vito and Charlie Ngatai, followed 16 minutes later by fullback Joe Hill scoring in the right corner from a diagonal run, Sopoaga converted both of them from wide out.
That had the visitors out to a 14-3 lead and threatening to run rampant, but the rest of the half belonged to Waikato as they finally strung some possession phases together and just over two minutes before the break big tighthead prop Ben Tameifuna powered over from a pick-and-go attack near the line for the home side's first try.
Renata failed to convert but the Mooloos pressured the men from the Capital to halftime and came out strongly after the break to pin Wellington back in their 22 and force a penalty that Renata this time made no mistake with to make it 14-11.
But just when Waikato looked to be getting back into the game the Lions struck out wide with pace and flair again with flanker Ardie Savea showing stunning speed to handle twice in his try when he combined with winger Ambrose Curtis to increase their lead to 19-11.
The home side did not give up and threw everything they had at the visiting defence, which stood up pretty well, in the end forcing Waikato to stop kicking penalties to the corner and go for goal, Renata closing the gap again to 19-14.
And the red, yellow and black pressure continued with Waikato now enjoying all the ball and all the field position.
In the end the pressure told and after an earlier warning issued by referee Glen Jackson a yellow card was issued to Savea, meaning Wellington had to play the last six minutes with 14 men.
But the Lions' defence was up to the task and when finally replacement prop Paul Alo-Emile knocked the ball on at the back of a ruck under the posts Wellington were able to win the defensive scrum and kick for touch as the siren sounded.
Waikato must now recover quickly for next Wednesday night's away match against Tasman in Nelson with relegation to the championship still a threat and their premiership semifinal hopes pretty much gone.
Wellington 19 (Afa Fa'atau, Joe Hill, Ardie Savea tries; Lima Sopoaga 2 conversions) Waikato 14 (Ben Tameifuna try; Trent Renata 3 penalty goals). HT: 14-8
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