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No.9 battle lights up Capital

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

Mathewson has been in sparkling form for Wellington in this season's Air New Zealand Cup and credits much of his confidence to regular starts in the number nine jersey.

The young halfback has started eight of Wellington's matches so far, including five in succession when Piri Weepu was used at first five-eighth then was away on All Blacks duty.

"It's been quite a while since I've had this many starts, actually I don't think I've ever had this many starts," Mathewson admitted.

"My confidence has definitely gone up a lot because playing with the team week in, week out you get to know everyone better and it's going really good."

The 22-year-old will certainly get a good measure of his abilities when he takes on Cowan in this Friday's semi-final at Westpac Stadium.

"He's obviously the number one halfback in the country. He's a really tough competitor and an awesome player.
It'd be good to play against him and test myself."

Mathewson had mixed fortunes in Wellington's round-robin clash against the Southerners in Invercargill in August.

He started off in fine fashion with the game's opening try when he stole the ball off the back of a screwed Stags scrum to sprint clear and score.

But then spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for throwing the ball away, something he has no intention of repeating.

"That was pretty stupid what I did to get the yellow card. I thought I was being pretty sneaky but obviously I wasn't sneaky enough," he said.

Regular starts have also contributed to an increase in tries for the young halfback, who has shown good sniping ability around the rucks to add to a bullet-like pass.

As well as his effort against Southland, Mathewson showed quick reactions to score from close range against Counties-Manukau and a good turn of pace saw him burst through to score against Hawke's Bay in the opening match of the season.

"Up until now I've only scored one try a campaign [one in each of the 2006 and 2007 Lions campaigns and one each in the 2007 and 2008 Hurricanes season].

"It's what I like to do – I like to run the ball a lot. But it's also important to be a good passer as well."

Wellington coach Jamie Joseph has stressed the need for his backs to show more patience on attack against Southland, after they wasted several opportunities in the quarter-final against Taranaki.

While Mathewson conceded it could be difficult to keep the excitement of playing a fast-paced, attacking game in check at times, especially with players such as Hosea Gear, Cory Jane and Tamati Ellison in the back line, he said it was an area the team was working on.

"Obviously we've got some quick runners out wide and we like to throw the ball around a bit but we've got to build the game.

"There's no point in just throwing it wide willy-nilly because we've got to get the forwards involved so we suck in the numbers then we can get it out wide."