Manawatu end 124 winless years in Capital
Saturday, August 13, 2011 Sportal.co.nz Getty Images
Manawatu dominated possession and territory in the first half to lead 16-14 at the break thanks to three Cruden penalties and a converted try to Tomasi Cama.
They tightened the screws in the second half with further tries for Aseli Tikoirotuma and Callum Gibbins. Cruden converted the latter and then rubbed salt into wounds with a dropped goal three minutes from time before Wellington captain Jeremy Thrush grabbed a late consolation for the home side.
The Lions missed the cool heads All Blacks Cory Jane, Hosea Gear and Victor Vito and after good start that saw hooker Dane Coles grab a brace of tries they were their own worst enemies and now remain firmly rooted to the bottom of the premiership ladder.
Thrush earned himself a yellow card for a late shoulder barge on Cruden in the 21st minute and although it only cost his side the initial three points, it did allow Manawatu to build some momentum which eventually saw them take a lead that they never relinquished.
Poor ball-carrying skills by Michael Lealava'a cost Wellington a try that could have broken the game wide open in the 58th minute and although they got back to within a point they didn't have the composure to press on for the win.
The Lions got off to the perfect start with Coles grabbing the game's opening try with just three minutes on the clock.
Lima Sopoaga almost gave Tomasi Cama a simple intercept but the Manawatu winger couldn't hold the ball and Jason Woodward tidied up.
Brad Shields was stopped just short but from close range Coles made no mistake and gave Sopoaga an easy conversion.
Two minutes later and Manawatu were on the board thanks to a Cruden penalty. They then took the lead for the first time when a stab kick through by the Turbos pivot was forced down by Cama despite the desperate scrambling by Alapati Leiua and Cruden added the extras.
But the lead was short-lived as Coles charged through a huge hole in the Manawatu defence to claim his second, which Sopoaga again converted.
Thrush then found himself on the sidelines but aside from the initial penalty, Wellington were able to get through the 10-minute spell without conceding another point.
Cruden nudged Manawatu 16-14 up just before the break as Thrush returned to the fray and then watched as Sopoaga pushed his penalty attempt wide.
The visitors opened up the Wellington defence once more seven minutes after the restart.
A solid scrum gave Cruden quick ball and he picked out Tikoirotuma with a long cut-out pass which allowed the centre to get between Charlie Ngatai and Michael Lealava'a to score.
Cruden couldn't add the conversion and missed a 52nd minute penalty shortly after Sopoaga had got his side back to within four points with his first successful penalty of the match.
Poor finishing by Lealava'a, making his first start for Wellington, cost his side a try, and they never really recovered from the set-back.
Although Sopoaga kicked a penalty to keep them in the game, Manawatu put the result beyond doubt when Gibbins scored in the corner and Cruden slotted a drop goal before Thrush's consolation five-pointer.
Wellington 25 (Dane Coles 2, Jeremy Thrush tries; Lima Sopoaga 2 con, 2 pen) Manawatu 31 (Tomasi Cama, Aseli Tikoirotuma, Callum Gibbins tries; Aaron Cruden 2 con, 3 pen, dropped goal). HT: 14-16
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