NPC Rugby Wellington versus Taranaki
TARANAKI failed to take their chance to make any impact in Saturday's NPC game and unofficial Hurricanes trial won comprehensively 41-13 by Wellington at WestpacTrust Stadium.
In fact, instead of impressing several of the Amber and Gold embarrassed themselves with poor discipline, decision-making and at times blatant stupidity.
Three of these "blatantly stupid" acts saw Taranaki sign their own death warrant with first halfback and NZ sevens rep Brendan Haami sent off in the 19th minute for stamping on his opposite Jason Spice; then NZ colt Brent Thompson was sin-binned for late tackling David Holwell; and then to cap off a night of "amberassments" the Amber and Blacks were permanently reduced to 13 when back-up hooker Daniel Smith was marched for late charging the seemingly targetted Holwell.
Rated (because of the Hurricance competition and neighbourly rivalry) as sort-of grudge and always an extremely rugged encounter it appeared Taranaki went a little beyond hard rugby last and this tactic only backfired - firing up Wellington led by superb efforts from Norm Hewitt and Jerry Collin and weakening the visitors who with the dismissal of Haami, binning of Thompson and then the red card to Smith effectively played a third of the match with only 13 men.
And against any team worth a first division possie, especially one containing the talents of Jonah Lomu, Alama Ieremia, Christian Cullen and Brad Fleming 13 isn't going to be enough. And against a Lions team hurt by last weeks debacle against an underated Northland side 13 certainly wasn't going to do the business.
Thus as the game wore on an Taranaki's warrior like pack led by the Slaters Andy and Gordon and inspired by fiery efforts of hardmen Paul Tito and Tama Tuirirangi tired and after only trailing 11-3 at the break the visitors faded under constant pressure and Wellington ran out convincing victors to right an NPC campaign staggered by last week's defeat.
While Taranaki wrote their own script by failing to use their heads their tight five toiled valiantly and Cambell Feather tried hard in the loose.
For the victors tries were scored by Cullen, Semo Sititi, Lomu and Collins ( in that order) and all were deserved. Cullen especially stood out as the class act on the field while he was well served by Ieremia who showed some deft touchs to comliment his typical no-nonsense power. Up front the Lions enjoyed the return of English front-rower Kevin Yates who battled tirelessly against a very good Gordon Slater, Dion Waller impressed yet again and had a far more disciplined game than he is known for.
However the undoubted stars of the much needed Lions win were captain "chunky" Hewitt who got around like a spring lamb and the high touted blindside flank Collins who again exceeded the very high expectations anyone who has seen him perfrom has of this young man who proves game after game he has what it takes to go to the top of the rugby tree.
In other NPC matches around the country Otago beat Counties-Manukau, Waikato retained the sheild beating a gallant Southland 44-36 while on Friday Canterbury beat Auckland 29-26 in a thriller at Eden Park.