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Weepu woe as Lions roar

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Saturday, October 16, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Weepu, who was originally due to be on promotional duties in Melbourne this week, was hurt five minutes after half-time when he was caught awkwardly in a tackle as he looked to kick the ball.

Play was held up for several minutes while the Wellington pivot was attended to on the pitch before being stretchered off in obvious pain.

It left All Blacks selectors with a headache ahead of their squad announcement on Sunday evening.

Weepu's injury aside, it was a good night for Wellington who did exactly what they needed to to keep their top seven hopes alive.

After a slow start, they finally hit their straps from the 30-minute mark and from then on Taranaki simply could not match them.

By halftime Alipati Leiua, Apoua Stewart and Alby Mathewson had crossed the whitewash and Tajhon Mailata, Scott Fuglistaller followed shortly after Weepu had been taken from the field as the bonus point was wrapped up.

Ma'a Nonu and Charlie Ngatai crowned a fine team performance with tries in the final 10 minutes.

Jayden Hayward and Scott Ireland scored tries in each half for Taranaki, who now face a battle to remain in play-off contention.

Leiua's 10th minute try came after John Schwalger, Neemia Tialata and Api Naikatini had carried the ball strongly to within a couple of metres of the Taranaki line.

Mathewson spun the ball out to Weepu whose deft grubber was collected by Leiua and forced in the corner.

Willie Ripia responded with a penalty but it was scant reward for the amount of ball the visitors had had.

As the half-hour mark approached the momentum began to turn in favour of Wellington as the forwards finally got their hands on the ball. That allowed Nonu, Mathewson and Weepu to start to dictate matters.

The result was a well-worked try to Stewart after Nonu got on the outside of Hayward, fed Julian Savea who got the ball out to the fullback who dived over in the corner.

A knock on by Savea deep in his own 22 gifted Taranaki a good attacking opportunity a few minutes later and they made the most of it with David Smith dancing past defenders before the ball was spun to Hayward out wide.

But a great solo effort from Mathewson, who got on the outside of Jarrad Hoeata and raced in, gave Wellington a healthy 17-8 half-time lead.

Weepu extended the advantage with a penalty two minutes after the restart but then had his match brought to a sudden and painful end.

The long break while Weepu was attended to did not appear to unsettle his team-mates as they scored immediately from the restart with Leiua involved in the move twice before Mailata crossed the whitewash.

Lima Sopoaga calmly slotted the conversion and was banging over another two-pointer a few minutes later after Fuglistaller and barged his way over for Wellington's fifth try.

The replacement Lions pivot extended the lead with a penalty before Ireland scored in the corner to get the visitors into double figures.

But it was Nonu and Ngatai who had the final say dotting down in the closing minutes as the Lions finished with a roar.

Wellington 49 (Alipati Leiua, Apoua Stewart, Alby Mathewson, Tajhon Mailata, Scott Fuglistaller, Ma'a Nonu, Charlie Ngatai tries; Piri Weepu con, pen, Lima Sopoaga 3 con, pen) Taranaki 15 (Jayden Hayward, Scott Ireland tries; Beauden Barrett con; Willie Ripia pen). HT: 17-8