Lions defeat North Harbour, just

Gettys     29 Aug 2013     Gettys

Wellington coach Chris Boyd probably wishes his men would pay a little more attention to such wise words, after they almost surrendered a 21-0 lead against North Harbour on Wednesday night.

They managed to secure a 35-27 bonus point win, but it wasn’t pretty.

Boyd will aim to erase all traces of complacency when they host Manawatu in just three days.

For now, they will enjoy a six-point lead over the second-placed Canterbury in the Premiership - which could become 11 before the round is over.

Thanks must go to centre Charlie Ngatai for his two tries and first-five Lima Sopoaga, who kept the points (20) coming with his own five-pointer and a near-perfect kicking display.

But if the Lions are serious about winning their first NPC title in 13 years, they had better take a serious look in the mirror.

Wellington were expected to make light work of the men from Albany, who are languishing at the foot of the second-tier Championship division.

When TJ Perenara, Sopoaga and Ngatai dotted down under the posts inside the opening 26 minutes it looked like a blowout was on the cards.

Instead things got a little casual for the home side.

Front-rowers suddenly felt the urge to throw flashy offloads and take chances with grubber kicks when the circumstances clearly didn’t require them.

Those decisions were even more confusing after it became apparent that Wellington’s tight forwards were failing to perform their core roles at the scrum and lineout.

A lack of intensity at the breakdown allowed Harbour to spoil a number of attacking opportunities and turn the pressure around with a sound counter attack.

Nafi Tuitavake and schoolboy star Tevita Li struck with two quick-fire tries that narrowed the gap to seven at half-time.

After the break, Sopoaga and his opposite Codey Rei (12 points) traded blows with the boot before Ngatai helped Wellington to secure a 32-17 cushion with his second of the night.

Just as it looked as though Wellington would get home safely, uncapped All Black Francis Saili split the defence to score a converted try that put Harbour in position to secure snatch an upset win with 10 minutes on the clock.

Instead North Harbour were dealt one final blow, and a cruel one at that.

Sopoaga slotted a penatly on the full-time siren that denied the visitors glory, but more importantly a bonus point that could prove crucial as they aim to avoid the wooden spoon for the second straight year.

North Harbour also face a tough turnaround, with Northland arriving to play at Albany on Saturday.

Looking for his first win of the season, coach Liam Barry will have to first re-arrange his midfield after second-five Tua Saseve limped from the field after 25 minutes.

Wellington: 35 (TJ Perenara, Lima Sopoaga, Charlie Ngatai 2 tries; Lima Sopoaga 3 con, 3 pen)

North Harbour: 27 (Nafi Tuitavake, Tevita Li, Francis Saili tries; Codey Rei 3 cons; 2 pen)

HT: 21-14 North Harbour