Woodward hat-trick hero for Lions

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Saturday, July 16, 2011    Getty Images

The young right wing scored late in the first half to help the visitors to an 8-0 half-time lead and repeated the dose twice in the final 25 minutes as the Lions took control of the tight encounter between the Hurricanes cousins.

The first half was a good old-fashioned arm wrestle and until the 39th minute the only thing splitting the two sides was a Michael Hobbs penalty.

But the second half opened up a little more with Jayden Hayward crossing the whitewash for Taranaki before Woodward completed his well-deserved hat-trick.

Taranaki first five-eighths Beauden Barrett, the Hurricanes prime target following the departure of Aaron Cruden, had a night to forget with his goal kicking, missing all his shots (two penalties and a conversion).

He fared a little better kicking from hand as the home side looked to play the territory game by plugging the corners, particularly in the first half, and showed some enterprise with the ball in hand when given the chance as well.

Cory Jane's tough year continued as he suffered a compound dislocation of the ring finger of his left hand and was forced from the field 10 minutes into the second half.

Wellington almost got off to the dream start at Yarrow Stadium when Woodward gathered a clever box-kick by Piri Weepu and charged for the line. But the Taranaki defence just managed to bundle the right winger into touch and the opportunity went begging
Hobbs then missed a penalty but the momentum remained with the visitors who recycled the ball well and continued to build pressure.

But again their endeavour went unrewarded when Victor Vito was forced into touch on the left side of the field after a lovely floated ball by Weepu had created the space down the wing.

The deadlock was eventually broken by a Hobbs penalty in the 16th minute when Hayward was adjudged to have killed the ball at the ruck and Barrett's first penalty miss followed a couple of minutes later.

In the next 10 minutes neither side made much headway as Weepu, Lima Sopoaga, and Barrett opted to plug the corners. When the sides did attempt to create something with ball in hand invariably it was knocked on meaning the forwards got plenty of line-out and scrum practice.

Taranaki's best chance of the first half came in the 29th minute when a loose Weepu pass to Jane was pounced on by Barrett, who showed some good footballing skills to nudge it towards the goal-line.

But the combination of Alipati Leiua and Woodward was enough to thwart the Taranaki pivot, although Wellington did concede a five metre scrum from which Taranaki won a simple penalty but Barrett failed to convert.

Weepu then missed a long-range attempt and it appeared Wellington would take a 3-0 lead in to the changing sheds.

But from virtually nothing, the Lions conjured up the opening try. Weepu flicked up a loose ball to captain Jeremy Thrush, who fed Sopoaga and he drew the defence before putting Woodward away in the corner. Hobbs failed to convert.

A stern half-time pep talk from Taranaki coach Colin Cooper clearly had the desired effect as the home side came out firing after the break.

It took some committed defending from the Lions to deny firstly Andrew Hore, then Scott Waldrom and Jason Eaton from close range.

Hayward then lost a footrace to the ball with Julian Savea but made no mistake in the 51st minute when he got round the outside of Weepu to score in the left-hand corner.

But it was the Lions who took charge from that point as they stretched their lead to 10 points with Woodward's second. Savea bounced off several would-be tacklers, then dynamic hooker Dane Coles raced 20 metres but was hauled down just before the line leaving Woodward to score.

Weepu converted and then kicked another penalty to put the game beyond doubt before he sent up a clever box-kick which bounced kindly for the right winger who gathered to finish the night off in style.

Taranaki 5 (Jayden Hayward try) Wellington 23 (Jason Woodward 3 tries; Piri Weepu con, pen; Michael Hobbs pen). HT: 0-8