Hosts Wellington delivered former All Black Charlie Saxton's mantra of 'possession, position and pace' to exemplary standards last night against Northland to maintain their unbeaten ITM Cup record and concede no points for the second straight week.
In short, Wellington were clinical, Northland were clunky.
Sky Sport's commentary team reported it was the first time Northland had been kept scoreless since playing Otago in 1985.
Wellington kept the visitors scoreless in the first half, something also achieved against Taranaki and North Harbour this season. Their defence offered limited opportunities for the opposition to cross the advantage line in slippery conditions.
World Cup hopefuls Cory Jane and Victor Vito (57 minutes) had solid displays behind their team juggernaut, but several teammates were worthier of star billing.
Centre Matt Proctor stabbed a Goldilocks of a grubber kick to set up left wing Wes Goosen for the opening try - the weight was 'just right'. Halfback Frae Wilson produced a dive pass worthy of a parachute opening behind him as he ignited the second try to Joe Hill down the right-hand flank. The ball also whisked through the hands of Ardie Savea and Jane. Hooker Leni Apisai bulldozed with the ball in hand, first-five Jonny Bentley lived up to his automotive surname by directing the team's smooth passage, Savea maintained a relentless presence at the breakdown and Shaun Treeby injected abrasive running to maximise his side's attacking metres in the wet.
Home fans who braved the walk up the concourse in the capital would have left impressed. Momentum continued to open the second half. An early lineout drive had them assembling like an RAF formation to burrow across with Savea red-carpeted to the line.
Northland, seeking their first win in three attempts this season struggled for flow and continuity. First-five Dan Hawkins summed matters up in one of the more insightful sentences gleaned from halftime chats this (or any) season: "we need to get the seed down the right end". The words could not be turned into actions and, even when they got close, errors crept in or the Wellington defence proved too robust.
Halfback Sam Nock was involved in two instances. A pass to left wing Jone Macilai with the line in sight skidded across the turf and minutes later his own dive for the line was stopped centimetres short. Northland's endeavour with sustained periods of possession was admirable, but the skill levels were lacking. They also had moments when they struggled to free possession against a Wellington pack which offered more physicality at the breakdown.
Wellington 29 (W.Goosen, J.Hill, A.Savea, J Garden-Bachop tries, J.Bentley 3 con, pen)