Wellington vs Waikato
It was possibly the upset of the weekend so far, with the Lions beaten finalists last year, while Waikato were unable to reach the semi-finals in 2013.
But you wouldn’t have known it at Westpac Stadium, while there were moments where the sides appeared evenly matched, the Mooloo showcased a clinical ability to take the points on offer.
At times, the visitors looked akin to a Sevens team, they were, not unlike other ITM Cup sides so far in the season, very keen to put width on the ball and attack where possible.
Both teams were stacked with inexperienced players, but Waikato looked dangerous with ball in hand and showed a withering ability to rack up points quickly.
First five-eighth Damian McKenzie scored the game’s first try with just three minutes on the clock, while wing Joe Webber added another ten minutes later.
At this point Waikato recovered from a 10-11 deficit to score a point a minute as the first stanza closed.
Webber scored his second, and Brayden Mitchell and Anton Lienert-Brown also added five-pointers, with the Under 20s centres try a great individual effort that highlighted Waikato’s insistence on using their young players to spread the ball and back themselves.
At 30-11 at halftime the contest was over, but for the first 20 minutes of the second half the score line remained the same.
Wellington was actually boasting a slight edge in possession and territory, but the Lions were missing tackles and making unforced errors.
Coach Chris Boyd would have been frustrated with his team, golden at times, but guilty of making schoolboy errors at deciding moments.
Jared Kahu scored what could have been a comeback try, with the lively Wellington halfback crossing, while Jason Woodward converted, to make it 30-18 to the Mooloo with 18 minutes to play.
Barely 90 seconds laters, Zak Hohneck scored to restore Waikato’s advantage, and the spark they were showing on attack was being matched with a fair amount of patience on defence.
Wellington were undermanned, with the worst injury toll of any ITM Cup team coming into the season openers, and while a try to Vaea Fafita scored in the 75th minute showed the hosts weren’t willing to lie down, their 25 points wasn’t enough to earn any competition points.
The visiting Mooloo meanwhile will depart on a high, beginning the season taking a major scalp on their own home track.
Tries: Treeby, Kahu, Fafita
Cons: Woodward (2)
Pens: Woodward (2)
Tries: Webber (2), McKenzie, Mitchell, Lienert-Brown, Hohneck
Cons: McKenzie (2)