Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Rugby: Waikato upset Wellington in the capital

Anton Lienert-Brown of Waikato breaks away from Jason Woodward of Wellington during the round one ITM Cup match between Wellington and Waikato at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images
Anton Lienert-Brown of Waikato breaks away from Jason Woodward of Wellington during the round one ITM Cup match between Wellington and Waikato at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Photo / Getty Images

Waikato 37
Wellington 25

Chris Boyd's cubs have a lot of work to do.

The moniker of the Lions doesn't seem accurate for Wellington in this year's ITM Cup given the youthful feel to their side and the Lion cubs were dealt a harsh lesson in the capital tonight as they went down 37-25 to Waikato.

The game had teams with contrasting recent histories on paper given Waikato missed the playoffs last year, while Wellington were the beaten finalists.

But, as we all know, rugby isn't played on paper and Waikato also cared little for the bookies' thoughts as they produced the upset, which marked their first win over Wellington in the capital since 2002.

The visitors started quickly at Westpac Stadium through a couple of their own young guns and never let up.

Rookie first-five Damian McKenzie, who recently signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs, scored the first try of the night and had a hand in several others.

The halftime score of 30-11 could have been worse if the 19-year-old McKenzie had brought his kicking boots to Wellington but he pushed a collection of conversions wide during the first spell.

Wellington have been cut down by a swathe of injuries during the lead-up to their campaign and they lost their starting first-five Riki Flutey to a devastating hamstring tear during their final pre-season outing last week.

With a lack of options at pivot, Boyd called upon former Samoan international Fa'atonu Fili to run the cutter, which marked his return to the Wellington fold after last playing for them at this level in 2011.

Fili was set to play for Poverty Bay in this year's Heartland Championship but couldn't turn down the chance to have another crack for the Lions.

With a host of other veterans and contracted players in the medical ward, coach Boyd had to summon players from Wellington's club competition and their starting tight five had only a handful of provincial caps between them.

Inexperience aside, Wellington's basic skills let them down and they were outgunned by a dangerous Waikato side who ran the ball with great accuracy, while Joe Webber, who scored twice, was a threat out wide.

As the second spell meandered along, livewire halfback Jared Kahu brought the home side back in to the contest after reacting quickly following a penalty as he burrowed through to score but any hope of a comeback was shortlived.

Waikato flanker Zak Hohneck scored only minutes after the ensuing kick-off as the brave crowd of 3310, at a bitterly cold Westpac Stadium, went flat again.

Wellington have a week to turn things around when they head to Whangarei to meet Northland next Saturday, while Waikato will host the red-hot Canterbury in Hamilton on Friday night.

Waikato 37 (Joe Webber 2, Damian McKenzie, Brayden Mitchell, Anton Lienert-Brown, Zak Hohneck tries; McKenzie pen, 2 con) Wellington 25 (Shaun Treeby, Jared Kahu, Vaea Fifita tries; Jason Woodward 2 pen, 2 con) halftime: 30-11
APNZ dr

- APNZ

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 22 Nov 2014 18:19:03 Processing Time: 576ms