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Wellington runs away from Harbour

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Sportal.co.nz     17 Oct 2009     Getty Images

The win puts the Lions second on the ladder behind Canterbury with a match against Tasman in Blenheim to come next week.

Wellington was forced to work hard for the win against a committed North Harbour side that had the better of the territory and possession in the first half but couldn't make it count.

The teams were locked 13-13 at half-time and it was Wellington that pulled away in the second half, despite the rain, with tries to Alipate Leuia, Ma'a Nonu and Hosea Gear following the first half effort from skipper Jacob Ellison.

Fa'atonu Fili had a good day with the boot converting all the tries and kicking a couple of penalties as well for a haul of 17 points.

Piri Weepu, in his first game since the All Blacks' loss to South Africa Durban, lasted 52 minutes and looked sharp after more than two months on the sidelines before being replaced by Alby Mathewson.

The tussle between Neemia Tialata and Tony Woodcock at scrum-time was also a good one with Tialata improving as the game went on and keen to impress All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen in the stands.

Wellington, wearing special jerseys which will be auctioned off on November 3 to raise funds for the tsunami victims in Samoa, only got into the Harbour half twice in the opening 10 minutes but came away with points each time as Fili punished Harbour ill-discipline by banging over two penalties.

Harbour was still dominating possession and territory with lock James King making some good tackles and Scott Uren going well at the breakdown to much to the frustration of the Lions.

A lovely break by first-five Michael Harris then had Wellington scrambling on defence but the Lions eventually cleared the danger.

Another promising attack by the Lions resulted in Harbour wing Nafi Tuitavake going over at the other end on 21 minutes.

Ma'a Nonu was halted and the All Black midfielder's offload was loose forcing Daniel Ramsay to flick it up off the ground. But his attempt was scooped up by Andrew Mailei who raced down field before firing the pass out to Tuitavake who had a clear run to the line to dot down under the posts.

Harris converted and then kicked over a penalty to put the visitors 10-6 ahead.

But Wellington responded strongly and three minutes before the break skipper Jacob Ellison burrowed over from close range after the attack was initially sparked by a good break from Gear.

Fili converted but another Harris penalty meant the scores were locked 13-13 at half-time.

The Lions started the second half with a roar with Alipati Leuia going over for Wellington's second try.

A solid drive from the lineout 10 metres out gave them good front foot ball and a great cut out pass from Nonu to Jane gave Leuia the time and space to go over in the corner.

Fili converted and was on target again with another penalty to stretch Wellington's lead to 10 points with around 25 minutes to go.

Nonu darted his way over for Wellington's third try after a solid five metre scrum and a good pop-up pass from Mathewson.

Wellington kept up the intensity with Jane's kicks putting the Harbour back three under constant pressure.

But it was a jinking break by the fullback, on his 50th appearance, that set up Wellington's bonus-point try for Gear who spun over in the left corner leaving Fili to slot over a tough sideline conversion.

Mathewson thought he had scored a try late in the piece after Fili's attempted drop goal came back off the post.

But it was ruled out because Shaun Treeby was adjudged to have taken Ken Pisi without the ball.

Scorers: Wellington 37 (Jacob Ellison, Alipati Leuia, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear tries; Fa'atonu Fili 4 con, 3 pen) North Harbour 13 (Nasi Tuitavake try; Mike Harris con, 2 pen). HT: 13-13