Wellington: 34 (Daniel Kirkpatrick, Sam Lousi, Mateaki Kafatolu, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Alex Fidow; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, Kirkpatrick con, pen) Waikato: 10 (Bailyn Sullivan try; Sevu Reece con, pen).
It wasn’t as exhilarating as last Sunday, but a bonus victory on the road following two yellow cards and sustained periods on defence is a satisfactory outcome for the Wellington Lions in Hamilton this afternoon.
Dan Kirkpatrick punished an early Waikato indiscretion by kicking a third minute penalty, before the hosts anchored Wellington in their own half.
In the 10th minute Asafo Aumua was yellow carded for a no-arms tackle and Wellington was forced into repeat defence. Six times Waikato strung together more than seven phases in one sequence in the first spell.
In the ninth minute, Waikato wing Sevu Reece went close to scoring a try, but was rundown desperately short by Ben Lam.
In the 33rd minute Kirkpatrick kicked ahead promisingly for Lam and Reece was forced into defence, kicking the ball over the dead ball line and conceding a five-metre scrum.
Wellington won a clean hook and a few rucks later Sam Lousi muscled over for the opening try.
Waikato responded from the kick-off when flanker Mitchell Jacobson stripped a clean turnover from Regan Verney and rookie centre Bailyn Sullivan scored after Wellington was caught short of numbers.
A halftime rev up from coach Chris Gibbs had its desired effect. In the 43rd minute Alex Fidow was held up over over the line. Two minutes later Kirkpatrick crossed in the corner after Thomas Umaga-Jensen beat four defenders in a bullying 30-metre surge.
With 25 minutes left Wellington was ahead 15-10 and doggedly defending their line when they lost Verney to the sinbin for not rolling away. Wellington conceded a five-metre scrum, but managed to clear following beastly runs by Asafo Aumua and Fidow.
A short time later Reece was a victim of a hospital pass inside his 22 and Wellington pounced when workhorse flanker Mateaki Kafatolu received an offload by Lousi close to the posts.
Sniffing blood Umaga-Jensen barged through for the bonus point and his first Wellington try and Fidow completed a 70-metre movement which involved nine pairs of hands.
WHO STOOD OUT
There wasn’t an obvious candidate for man of the match, but Sam Lousi who’s been close to MVP points a number of times this season continued his powerhouse form and is duly rewarded this time around. Umaga-Jensen utilized what little ball he had with devastating effect. Fidow was tough to restrain, Ben Lam is growing in stature in the unfamiliar position of fullback and Du'Plessis Kirifi was tireless on defence.
BY THE NUMBERS
Waikato won 28-24 in 2016. Stephen Donald scored a late try for the Mooloos.
Alex Fidow has scored five tries this year, the most by a tight forward.
With a 16-point buffer to fifth place with three rounds and a maximum of 15 competition points up for grabs, the Lions have officially qualified for the semi-finals with three matches to play.
The Lions have now scored 40 tries in seven outings in this year’s NPC, second to Canterbury with 45 and with Otago with the next most with 29.
Wellington now leads the head-to-head series with Waikato with 38 wins to 31, with one draw.
CLUB RUGBY LIONS MVP
3. Sam Lousi
2. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
1. Alex Fidow
Points after seven matches:
10. Asafo Aumua
6. Jackson Garden-Bachop
6. Wes Goosen
5. Du'Plessis Kirifi
4. Alex Fidow
3. Jeff To'omaga-Allen
3. Sam Lousi
2. Julian Savea
2. Thomas Umaga-Jensen
1. Tolu Fahamokioa
Wellington: Ben Lam, Julian Savea (c), Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Regan Verney, Malo Tuitama, Dan Kirkpatrick, Sheridan Rangihuna; Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Mateaki Kafatolu, Will Mangos, Sam Lousi, Alex Fidow, Asafo Aumua, Sitiveni Paongo. Reserves: Leni Apisai, Tolu Fahamokioa, Joe Apikotoa, Chris Middleton, Galu Taufale, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Billy Proctor.
Waikato: Tyler Campbell, Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, Bailyn Sullivan, Tevita Taufui, Sevu Reece, Sam Christie, Pele Cowley; Jordan Manihera, Mitch Jacobson, Luke Jacobson, James Tucker (c), Leva Fifita, Atu Moli, Hame Faiva, Ayden Johnstone. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Loni Uhila, Sefo Kautai, Sam Caird, Adam Burn, Harrison Levien, Matty Lansdown, Pita Ahki.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Wellington host Otago in an intriguing top of the table championship match-up. Otago have only won three of their first six matches, but their best form is very good. Waikato travel to Christchurch and face the daunting prospect of a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Canterbury who returned to winning ways today beating previously unbeaten North Harbour, 41-28.