The Wellington Lions have saved their best for last, literally, with a six-try 58-34 demolition of North Harbour, where the home team put together a wonderful 43 point second half blitzkrieg to give their suffering fans plenty to cheer about.
The final half, where Chris Boyd’s men easily maintained a point a minute scoring rate, showcased everything that we know is good about Wellington attacking rugby at its finest.
The victory also ensured that the team didn’t finish with the unwanted tag of being the only winless ITM Cup union, although the hard work really starts now, with the Lions to play in the Championship throughout the 2015 season.
What was quite remarkable was only the boot of Willie Ripia was in action during a tight first half where both sides looked tense.
Harbour, who now have to wait on other results to see if they have made the semi-finals, were enterprising in defeat, but a fired up Wellington pack and far and away the most cohesive showing from the Lions’ backline this season was simply too much.
Pita Ahki scored the game’s first try in the 21st minute, and when his centre partner Matt Vaega added another five minutes later one could almost hear the groans from the fans wearing black and gold.
Especially considering the 10 points were gifted via Lions mistakes.
Five penalties from Ripia allowed Wellington to trail by just two, with the game delicately perched at 17-15.
The second half was sensational, with Jackson Garden-Bachop starting the procession in the 41st minute.
Matt McGahan would keep the tourists in touch with a penalty, before Victor Vito, who had a mighty game for Wellington, scored as the match entered the final quarter.
Brad Shields try was well deserved after the big forward’s tough season leading the embattled team, but then Harbour put the frighteners on.
Two tries, to Raniera Takarangi and Tevita Li, made it 37-34 to Wellington with just ten minutes to play.
Vaea Fifita, Ross Filipo and TJ Perenara would score for the Lions to put the game beyond doubt, while long serving lock Filipo was given kicking honours, striking over two conversions.
It is the biggest score in the rivalry, surpassing Wellington’s 52-23 win in 2010.
Tries: Garden-Bachop, Vito, Shields, Fafita, Filipo, Perenara
Cons: Ripia (3), Filipo (2)
Pens: Ripia (6)
North Harbour 34
Tries: Ahki, Vaega, Takarangi, Li
Cons: McGahan (3), Halangahu
Pens: McGahan (2)