Rugby: Wellington revive to thrash Northland

Northland's Mark Burman is tackled by Wellington's Neemia Tialata and Lima Sopoaga during the ITM rugby match tonight. Photo / NZPA, Marty Melville
Northland's Mark Burman is tackled by Wellington's Neemia Tialata and Lima Sopoaga during the ITM rugby match tonight. Photo / NZPA, Marty Melville

Sparked by returning All Blacks Hosea Gear and Cory Jane, Wellington ran out six-try winners 43-19 over Northland in their national provincial championship rugby match here tonight.

With a vastly improved defensive effort and good work at the set piece, Wellington played with pace and width to run in three tries in each half for a much-needed bonus point win.

The win moves them onto 16 points with Auckland, leaving Southland on the bottom of the premiership with 15.

Jane was a constant threat, breaking the Northland defensive line time and again before combining with captain Jeremy Thrush to set up a wave of Wellington attacks.

Gear's pace also provided options, and his strength saw Wellington attack the Northland line with venom close in as well as out wide.

The result was a vast improvement from Wellington's last two games -- a 40-20 loss to Hawke's Bay and a humiliating 32-0 loss to Bay of Plenty, when their leaky defence conceded 10 tries.

Early errors from Northland gifted Wellington a surfeit of possession, and they made the most of it.

An early penalty from first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga was bolstered by a Frae Wilson try in the ninth minure, after Wellington built field position. A strong attacking scrum from five metres out saw No 8 Faifili Levave peel off the back to charge the line, offloading for the nippy halfback to cross.

Although Sopoaga missed the conversion, Wellington extended their lead after 20 minutes, building momentum after forcing the turnover deep in Northland territory.

Winger Alipate Leiua finished the move with precision to score in the corner, backing up 15 minutes later with a second as Wellington once again punished the visitors for errors in their own 22.

Sopoaga's conversion saw Wellington go into the break with a 22-6 lead, as Northland relied on penalties from the boot of Lachie Munro to stay in touch.

There was no let up in the second stanza, Jane making the initial break before the ball was spread wide for Levave to score after just two minutes.

Two more Munro penalties kept Northland within 10 points after 55 minutes, but tries to Victor Vito and replacement hooker Dane Coles saw Wellington out to a 43-12 lead with 20 minutes remaining.

Northland stole a consolation try in the 72nd minute when centre and captain Jared Payne snared an intercept as Wellington tried to move the ball wide once too often.

- NZPA

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