Savea shines as Lions win

Getty Images

Saturday, August 21, 2010    Getty Images

The IRB junior player of the year scored one of Wellington's three tries but was a constant menace to the Waikato defence having a hand in Daniel Ramsay's try and generally running strongly and breaking the line whenever he got the ball in hand.

Lions first five-eighths Fa'atonu Fili may have had a mixed night with his goal kicking but his distribution skills and place kicking, particularly in the first half, kept Waikato on the back foot at Westpac Stadium.

Wellington led 16-9 at the break thanks to Savea and Ramsay's tries and a penalty and drop goal from Fili.

Trent Renata kicked Waikato's first half-points, while Jack Lam got their only try early in the second spell.

A converted try for Dane Coles and another Fili penalty put the game out of reach and although Waikato pressed hard in the final 20 minutes they could not breach the Wellington defence.

In a stop-start opening 15 minutes all the points came from the boots of the team's respective first five-eighths.

Fili banged over a penalty and dropped goal to Renata's two penalties to leave the scores locked up.

Only some staunch defence from Ramsay and Shaun Treeby stopped Renata from getting the game's opening try but it was a rare foray in to the Wellington 22 for the visitors.

The Lions gradually started to take control with Fili's pin-point kicks giving his side good territorial position and maintaining the pressure on Waikato.

On 24 minutes it looked as though the Mooloo defence had been cracked by the ball was lost forward over the line after Hosea Gear and Charlie Ngatai had previously been hauled down short of the line.

A strange decision by Fili to go for a second drop goal a few minutes later, which he missed, allowed Waikato to relieve the pressure and edge ahead when Treeby was penalised at the breakdown and Renata banged over his third three-pointer.

But Wellington responded immediately with two tries in six minutes giving them a 16-9 lead at the break.

First Savea ran almost the half the length of the field, fending off Renata in the process, to score a nice solo try in the corner.

The powerful wing then had a hand in Ramsay's try, making the initial burst which got the Waikato defence scrambling.

Faifili Levave provided the neat flick pass that put Ramsay in the gap and the lock raced to the line.

Fili failed to convert either try then Renata missed a penalty right on the stroke of half-time.

The Mooloos came out firing after the break and had reduced the deficit to just two points inside the first five minutes of the second spell when Lam drove over after Aled de Malmanche had been held up over the line.

From the resulting scrum No.8 Alex Bradley picked the ball up off the back and although he was stopped short Lam made no mistake.

Just as they had in the first half, Wellington again began to enjoy the better field position as line breaks by Savea, Gear, Shaun Treeby and a good 20 metre run by Alby Mathewson put the visitors on the back foot.

Mathewson's break was the catalyst for Coles' 56th minute try and it was the halfback's nice offload that allowed the hooker to scorch between Dominiko Waqanibburotu and Brendon Leonard to score.

Fili added the conversion and another penalty to stretch Wellington's lead to 26-14.

Replacement wing Tim Mikkelson looked to have scored a wonderful solo try on 67 minutes but the sharp eyed assistant referee spotted his foot in touch bringing his celebrations to an abrupt halt.

Waikato pressed hard in the final 20 minutes but turned the ball over too often when they were close to the Wellington line, while a bone crunching try-saving tackle from Gear on Lam in the closing minutes brought a loud cheer from the crowd of 7178.

Wellington 26 (Julian Savea, Daniel Ramsay, Dane Coles; Fa'atonu Fili con, 2 pen, dropped goal) Waikato 14 (Jack Lam try; Trent Renata 3 pen). HT: 16-9