Wellington vs Northland
Wellington Asafo Aumua has stamped his mark on the Mitre 10 Cup with a hattrick of tries in his first start for the Wellington Lions.
Just days after returning to the Lions from the national Under 19s tournament, the Avalon rake showed off all his power and pace during Wellington’s bonus point 29-21 win at Toll Stadium in Whangarei.
Wellington shot out of the blocks against Northland with a try to No 8 Hoani Matenga in the opening few minutes and another shortly after to Aumua to open a 17-0 lead within the first 15 minutes.
Northland struck back with a counter attack try to wing Solomona Alaimalo to close to 17-7 at halftime, but Aumua scored two tries in the space of six minutes after the break to put the game beyond reach as Wellington opened up a 29-7 lead on the 53 minute mark.
Aumua’s first try came after he’d set up the attack with a scintillating burst near halfway. His second was from a nice inside ball from lock Sam Lousi, while his third conjured images of All Blacks hooker Dane Coles as he raced in like a wing in the corner.
The 19-year-old became just the third hooker to score three tries in a first division match and highlighted Wellington’s depth of talent in the No 2 jersey after being called up to start for New Zealand Under 20s captain Leni Apisai, who missed the match with concussion.
The win extended the Brad Shields led Wellington side's winning run this season to four matches in a row and to five wins from six in total as they look to cement a place in the Championship playoffs.
Though the first 60 minutes was an impressive onslaught, Wellington’s momentum stalled after coach Earl Va’a emptied his reserves bench early and Northland mounted a commendable come back.
Northland paid dearly for a sin bin to flanker Kara Pryor for a high tackle on Wellington second five Shaun Treeby after halftime with Aumua scoring both his tries against the 14 man Taniwha.
The loss extended Northland’s losing streak this season to seven matches and their current streak overall to 19 matches but once again showed they are a side that never gives up.
Pryor returned to the field to feed replacement loose forward Matt Matich for a try, then big lock Shane Neville crashed over soon after to make it interesting with 10 minutes to play.
Wellington captain Brad Shields was among the Lions best in his 50th match for the province, prop Reggie Goodes put in a solid 80 minutes, and Greg Foe was full of energy at openside.
Northland 21 (Solomona Alaimalo, Matt Matich, Shane Neville tries, Peter Breen 3 con) Wellington 29 (Hoani Matenga, Asafo Aumua 3 tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 con, pen)