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NPC rugby. Saturday, 16.9.00 - Wgtn v Nth Harb

NPC rugby Wellington v North Harbour
North Harbour Stadium, Saturday, 16.9.00
Article: Mathew Loh

WELLINGTON"S bid for NPC semi-finalist status suffered huge damage on Saturday when they were hammered 24-7 by North Harbour at Albany.

After showing early promise with an excellent effort to beat Canterbury the Welllington Lions have failed to deliver and yesterday was more of the same as a poor performance was punished by a home team determined to win.

With a world class back four, intelligent halves and an improving pack hopes were high for Wellington after consecutive victories over Southern sides - Canterbury and Otago. However since then a loss to Northland, a poor effort to win against Taranaki and another loss to Auckland and suddenly yesterday's away game against North Harbour was of paramount importance to Wgtn's semi-final hopes.

Now those semi-final hopes seem remote even impossible as Wellington's continuation of poor recent form was punished by a Buck Shelford inspired North Harbour. Leading from the front Harbour skipper and All Black second-rower Troy Flavell had a powerful game and was ably supported by a pack which came on in the second half - likely a result of a burst from Buck.

Another stand-out for Harbour was dreaded flanker and New Zealand sevens representative Craig Newby who had an enthralling duel with opposite number and fellow 'dread-head' Kupu Vanisi. In the backs Karl Te Nana showed superb pace and skill to score a crucial try while no-one tried harder or did more on defence than Harbour half-back Mark Robinson.

In addition to Flavell and Te Nana dotting down. Harbour's other tries were scored by evergreen midfielder Walter Little - who opened the try-scoring - and breakaway Blair Urlich.

Meanwhile despite the obvious talents of Christian Cullen - who was injured and substituted - Tana Umaga, Jonah Lomu and Alama Ieremia out wide, Wellington again failed to capitalise on their strengths and struggled to make any impact in the game at all.

In the losing team loose forward Jerry Collins again revealed his class and durability while the likes of Umaga and Ieremia were obviously frustrated by the failure to utilise their skills.

Harbour coach Buck Shelford will be satisfied his team nullified a potentially dangerous Lions XV while his opposite Graham Mourie will be extremely disappointed by his team's sub-par performance.

In the day's other NPC 1st division clash Canterbury outclassed Southland at Christchurch's Jade Stadium where the home fans were entertained by the dominant Red and BLack machine who put it together to give their southern rivals a 72-8 hiding.

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