Wellington vs Southland
Two tries to young wing Malo Tuitama punctuated the Lions bonus point 60-21 Mitre 10 Cup Championship win over the Southland Stags at Westpac Stadium.
Head coach Earl Va’a’s team put on a show for their loyal Lions fans by running in nine tries to move to within a single point of leaders Otago on the Championship ladder.
The Stags came to play and had the first try of the match within the opening 10 minutes to halfback Jarhvis Wallace, but the rest of the first half largely belonged to the fired up home side.
Athletic loose forward Vaea Fifita got the ball rolling thanks to a defensive steal from halfback Tomasi Palu, when he flew onto an inside pass from first five Jackson Garden-Bachop to scorch over on the 15 minute mark and it was a sign of things to come.
The new look midfield of Wes Goosen and Matt Proctor gelled well and their distribution skills ensured wing Jason Woodward got plenty of chances out wide to show his vast array of skills.
CAPTION: Jason Woodward in full flight on his way to scoring one of the Lions nine tries against Southland. PHOTO: Dave Lintott Photography
Woodward provided the second try for openside Greg Foe when he off loaded in the tackle and despite Stags first five Wharenui Hawera scoring a simple try at the other end the Lions hit their straps.
Garden-Bachop laid on a try for Proctor with a perfect grubber kick into the ingoal, then Proctor served up a try for Goosen by splitting the Stags backline.
Woodward completed the first half rout with a brilliant solo run as the Lions wen to the break in a commanding position at 38-14. At that stage Garden-Bachop had kicked a perfect six from six from the tee.
Va’a didn’t miss the opportunity to empty his bench early in the second half and the replacements responded to show the growing depth within the squad.
Tuitama got his first try after Garden-Bachop had again seen space in behind to grubber ahead for his young wing, who showed a clean pair of heels after toeing ahead himself to go 80 metres for the try.
CAPTION: Wing Malo Tuitama dives over for one of his two tries against Southland. PHOTO: Dave Lintott Photography
Hooker Asafo Aumua scored moments after replacing Leni Apisai at hooker, then loose forward Galu Taufale showed his pace to outrun the defence to the corner and bring up the 50 points with 15 minutes to play.
Tuitama got his second thanks to a classy break and kick ahead from Mike Lealava’a and despite a late consolation try to Stags wing Keanu Kahukura, it was a pleasing night for the home team.
The Lions now head to Palmerston North on Wednesday night to play third placed Manawatu.
Wellington (Malo Tuitama 2, Vaea Fifita, Greg Foe, Matt Proctor, Wes Goosen, Jason Woodward, Asafo Aumua, Galu Taufale tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 6 con, pen). Southland (Jahrvis Wallace, Wharenui Harawera, Keanu Kahukura tries, Hawera 2 con, Greg Dyer con). HT: 38-14.
CAPTION: Vaea Fifita looks to evade a Southland defender during the Lions win over the Stags. PHOTO: Dave Lintott Photography