Wellington are one win away from returning to the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership, and it would be nothing less than they deserve.
Dominant all season, the Lions were initially shaky but then overwhelming in their 49-21 semifinal victory over Northland in Wellington.
Relegated to the Championship in 2014, Wellington have laboured through a string of uneven, uninspiring campaigns, but last night's victory made it 10 wins in 2017, contrasted by a solitary defeat. As a result, Northland were always unlikely to topple them in the capital, but they put up early resistance thanks to some bold decisions.
Turning down penalties, Northland capitalised against the run of play, with Jordan Hyland and Solomona Alaimalo both finishing off smart team moves.
Wellington were looking dangerous but lacking the final polish, and had to rely on the boot of Jackson Garden-Bachop and poor Northland discipline to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Said discipline proved costly for Northland just before halftime, with Dan Pryor being sinbinned for blatantly coming in from an offside position, and Wellington cashed in.
A depleted Northland scrum led to a turnover in prime position, and Garden-Bachop created a double-barrelled attack by setting up Thomas Umaga-Jensen to crash over from close range.
That gave Wellington the lead, and Northland weren't given another sniff. A Julian Savea-led Wellington backline opened the floodgates, with the hosts running in six tries to grab a 28-point victory.
Despite the defeat, Northland can take plenty from their campaign, which was a resounding success compared to their recent struggles, and provides a platform to build on for a future push for promotion.
They'll have to wait for that prize however, with Wellington closing in on claiming the rewards.
Wellington 49 (Wes Goosen 2, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Trent Renata, Tolu Fahamokioa, Regan Verney tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 5 cons, 3 pens).
Northland 21 (Jordan Hyland, Solomona Alaimalo, Sam Nock tries; Dan Hawkins 2 cons, Nock con).
Listen on Radio Sport Live commentary of today's playoff games:
Bay of Plenty v Otago, Tauranga Domain, 2.35pm.
Canterbury v North Harbour AMI Stadium, 5.05pm.
Taranaki v Tasman, Yarrow Stadium, 7.35pm.