Bay of Plenty upset Lions in their den
Thursday, September 30, 2010 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
Wellington fought back in the second half with five-pointers for Dane Coles and Alby Mathewson after Lima Sopoaga had kept the Lions in the contest with four penalties in the first half.
Bay of Plenty have been the masters of wet weather rugby this season and that form continued at a wet and windy Westpac Stadium.
In the first half they had little territory or possession and spent just two minutes in the opposition 22.
But they made the most of every scrap they got with Delany kicking a perfect four from four penalties in the trying conditions before converting Smith's 35th minute try.
Wellington were forced to rely on the boot of Sopoaga for their points after they butchered several try scoring opportunities.
After Delany's second minute penalty, the Lions were awarded a number of five metre scrums but Masaga managed to collect a nice Sopoaga grubber then Cullum Retallick stole the ball off Mathewson as he made a burst for the line.
Sopoaga missed his first shot at goal but he and Delany traded three-pointers and the Bay led 9-3 with 20 minutes gone.
John Schwalger was then held up over the line after some strong running by Shaun Treeby before Masaga charged up quickly on Scott Fuglistaller who dropped the ball wasting a good overlap.
Wellington persisted with the ball-in-hand approach and Fuglistaller and Treeby both made good yards but the ball was hacked dead when Coles over-ran it.
It was left to the two pivots kept the scoreboard ticking over until the 35th minute when Smith slid over after Phil Burleigh sold a dummy and put his full-back in and Delany added the conversion.
Sopoaga had the final say of the half with his fourth penalty.
Bay of Plenty got off to a flying start after the break with Aporo crossing the whitewash with just three minutes gone.
Luke Andrews stole a Wellington line-out and the ball was fed to Delany who popped up a great pass to the centre who barged his way over. The Steamers first-five added the extras.
It took a wonderful individual break by Buxton Popoali'i to spark Wellington's first try.
The wing was making his first start of the season with Hosea Gear and Julian Savea on Commonwealth Games duty and his silky running and strength set up hooker Coles to go over in the corner.
With 20 minutes to go Wellington got themselves right back in the contest with a try to half-back Mathewson who scooted down the right wing after a solid scrum by the Lions.
Sopoaga's conversion got the home side to within two points to set up a tense final quarter.
The Lions were lucky to keep their full complement when replacement midfielder Tajhon Mailata lifted Masaga in the tackle. Referee Keith Brown opted to award just a penalty – which Delany missed – but Mailata could yet find himself in trouble with the judiciary.
Sopoaga stopped a certain try for lock Retallick with just five minutes to go but it was all in vain as Masaga showed Mathewson a clean pair of heels to score in the corner and seal a deserved win.
Wellington 24 (Dan Coles, Alby Mathewson tries; Lima Sopoaga con, 4 pen) Bay of Plenty 31 (Ben Smith, Cory Aporo, Lelia Masaga tries; Mike Delany 2 con, 4 pen).
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