Wellington has rounded out the Mitre 10 Cup Championship regular season with a 36-18 win over Northland at Westpac Stadium.
The Lions ninth win from ten matches included six tries and the province’s 16th straight bonus point win although the result had no effect on next weekend’s semi-final.
Wellington will play one of Otago, Northland, Bay of Plenty or Manawatu, depending on results during the final round with the match to be played at Westpac Stadium on Friday or Saturday night.
In the meantime the Lions will celebrate a season that’s seen them score 59 tries and lose just once, to Tasman in Blenheim.
Northland proved a tough opponent as they chased what could be crucial competition points in their bid to qualify for the playoffs.
It wasn’t to be against a Wellington team that absorbed plenty of pressure until finally overrunning the Taniwha in the final 25 minutes.
Northland had the better of the early exchanges and the first try went to big wing Jordan Hyland who crashed over after 16 minutes for a 7-0 lead.
The Lions responded via second five Thomas Umaga-Jensen who showed strength, foot work and a fend to take advantage of a Sam Lousi lineout take to find the try line.
Wellington first five Jackson Garden-Bachop produced an unusual try to give the home team the lead when he bounced a chip kick off the cross bar.
Jackson Garden-Bachop’s opposite Dan Hawkins closed off the half with a penalty and the Lions took a 12-10 advantage into the break.
Hawkins put his side ahead again with his second penalty after long injury break while medical staff tended to Northland lock Tim Bond, but it was Wellington who were finding their attacking rhythm.
Hooker Asafo Aumua got the first of his two tries from a well worked lineout drive and then prop Alex Fidow got his seventh try of the season when he barged over from close range with 20 minutes to play and suddenly the momentum was one way.
Wing Julian Savea was popping up all over the park and after surging close through the middle of the park was the final recipient of some simple draw and pass to score the Lions fifth try and a 31-13 lead.
Northland were never going to win, but fought hard and were rewarded with a late try to second five Jack Goodhue before Aumua closed things off with simple dive via an assist from Brad Shields.
Wellington 36 (Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Asafo Aumua (2), Alex Fidow,, Julian Savea tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 cons) Northland 18 (Jordan Hyland, Jack Goodhue tries, Dan Hawkins con, 2 pen). HT: 12-10.