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Wellington secures semis berth

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Saturday, October 23, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Wellington scored 17 unanswered points in the second spell after it trailed by four points at halfback.

It scored three tries to two and deserved its win against a Southland side which tried to play high-risk rugby but which made a host of mistakes. It was Southland's fourth consecutive loss.

Victor Vito had a particularly strong game at No.8 for Wellington, Liam Sopoaga controlled play well, halfback TJ Perenara had a sound debut and the outside backs looked dangerous with their pace.

Wellington started the match in fourth place on 38 points but Southland had drifted to seventh on 34 points after losing its last three matches and was out of semi-finals contention.

Southland attacked furiously from the opening whistle and scored after five minutes when fullback Glen Horton finished off a period of sustained attack. Robinson converted from the touchline.

But Wellington got three points back three minutes later when Lima Sopoaga kicked a penalty from 40 metres.

Wellington scored its first try after 17 minutes when centre Tajhon Mailata dummied and broke through the defence from 40 metres out. Sopoaga's conversion made it 10-7.

Hooker Jason Rutledge appeared to drive over for a try from a lineout after 25 minutes but it was ruled inconclusive by the television match official.

Bu the Stags scored their second try after 30 minutes when James Wilson gathered in a chip ahead by Mark Wells and raced 40 metres to the line. Robinson's conversion made it 14-10.

Southland turned down penalty attempt as it ran the ball from everywhere in the first half. It had 62 percent possession, 58 percent territory and Wellington played into its hands by turning over the ball 14 times to eight.

Southland had a disastrous start to the second spell when it was on hot attack when wing Alipate Leuia intercepted and raced 60 metres for the try. Sopoaga converted to put Wellington in front, 17-14.

Wellington extended its lead to 20-14 after 15 minutes of the spell when Sopoaga kicked a penalty from 40 metres when a Lions forward was pulled down at a lineout.

Southland suffered a crushing blow 12 minutes from the end when Robinson lost the ball in his in-goal area and replacement Wellington hooker Ged Robinson grabbed it and forced it under the posts. Sopoaga converted and Wellington looked comfortable at 27-14.

Southland made a raft of second half substitutions but they did not inject the necessary urgency and it was Wellington which looked the stronger as the spell continued.

Scores were:

Southland 14 (Glen Horton, James Wilson tries; Robbie Robinson 2 con) Wellington 27 (Tajhon Mailata, Alipate Leuia, Ged Robinson tries; Lima Sopoaga 3 con, 2 pen). HT: 14-10.