In what would have been an immensely frustrating afternoon at the office for Wellington head coach Chris Boyd, Auckland have defeated the Lions 31-30 at Eden Park after the tourists were unable to register a single point in the second half.
The Lions, last year’s ITM Cup Premiership finalists, are now without a victory in their first four matches, and will end the round at the bottom of the table.
Things couldn’t get much worse for Wellington, who now head to the airport for the trip down to Canterbury for a rematch of the 2013 decider.
Auckland meanwhile, with their second win of the season, will move provisionally into the top four of the Premiership, with their next match against Championship strugglers Bay of Plenty.
Jason Woodward struck over the first points of the match in the 2nd minute, before Auckland’s Gareth Anscombe kicked over two in quick succession to five the blue and whites the early lead.
Then, in the 11th minute, Wellington would considerably up the ante.
Tu Umaga-Marshall would, after the Lions had ruled possession but found it difficult to penetrate Auckland’s defence, snatch an intercept pass and run 60 metres for the game’s first try.
The home team’s defence would not panic, and despite continued pressure from the tourists, they could only manage further points via Woodward’s boot in the 18th and 22nd minutes.
Then Wellington centre Shaun Treeby in the 31st minute would be the beneficiary after some scrappy work from Auckland saw Lions back Chase Tiatia gather up the loose ball.
Ambrose Curtis would add the Lions third with another long range effort before halftime, closing the first 40 minutes on the best half of Wellington’s season.
However there was little to be excited about for Lions fans in the second stanza.
An early Anscombe penalty would set the tone for a remarkable fightback from the hosts.
Black Gibson would score his first ITM Cup try after George Moala shuddered his way free of some tackles before putting up a lovely pop pass with the most delicate of hands.
The Lions would awaken from their slumber midway through the second half, but at this stage Auckland were in control of the match despite continuing to chase the contest.
However in the 71st minute, when Simon Hickey took the ball from deep to scythe through Wellington’s tight defence, the nightmare would be completed for the touring union.
A ferocious closing surge from the Lions, where they passed 30 phases, ultimately counted for nothing as Auckland held their nerve to continue Wellington’s rough start to the campaign.
Tries: Gibson, Hickey, Aso
Cons: Anscombe, Hickey
Pens: Anscombe (4)
Tries: Umaga-Marshall, Treeby, Curtis
Cons: Woodward (3)
Pens: Woodward (3)
Auckland: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Vince Aso, 13 George Moala, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Lolagi Visinia, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Junior Poluleuligaga, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Sean Polwart, 6 Joe Edwards, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 William Lloyd, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Gafatasi Su’a, 17 Nick Barrett, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Blake Gibson, 20 Leon Fukofuka, 21 TJ Faiane, 22 Ben Lam.
Wellington: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Ambrose Curtis, 13 Tu Umaga-Marshall, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Belgium Tuatagaloa, 10 Chase Tiatia, 9 Frae Wilson, 8 Brad Shields (c), 7 Adam Hill, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Christian Lloyd, 4 Mark Reddish, 3 Taniela Koroi, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Tolu Fahamokioa.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Eric Sione, 18 Pau Halafihi, 19 Henry Stowers/Dean Brunsdon, 20 Jared Kahu, 21 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 22 Tau Mamea.
Date: Saturday, September 6
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: Nick Briant