Sportal.co.nz 04.Sep.2009Getty Images
Still reeling from the pain of a 14-36 loss to Canterbury last Saturday that saw the Shield head south, Wellington notched the highest points haul of this year's Air New Zealand Cup season in the first-ever match to be held under lights in Pukekohe.
Gear, the Air New Zealand Cup's leading try-scorer last season, secured a hat-trick within 29 minutes and added another in the second half to complete another outstanding performance at first-class level for the one-Test All Black.
Lions coach Jamie Joseph could be well pleased with his side's attack but conceding three tries to the competition cellar-dwelling Steelers leaves room for improvement.
Ravaged by injury in the lead-up to the match, Counties-Manukau had its moments but was its own worst enemy in committing a number of simple errors that led directly to Wellington tries.
Those mistakes began early on as a poor lineout, coupled with weak tackling on centre Robbie Fruean, allowed the former IRB Young Player of the Year to feed fullback Cory Jane for the night's opening try.
The next three tries were all scored by Gear, two of which also came from opposition errors. The 25-year-old needed no second invitation and scored three of the easier five-pointers of his career.
First five-eighth Daniel Kirkpatrick joined in the act in his 16-point first half haul, dotting down on the back of fine work by impressive young No.12 Shaun Treeby.
The home crowd had something to cheer about right on the stroke of halftime when No.10 Dean Cummins squeezed under the posts to narrow the gap to 36-7 at the break.
A dozy start to the second half by Counties-Manukau saw Fruean score a well-deserved try, although the powerful centre had plenty of help from weak tackling.
In the spirit of South Auckland sides of the past, the Steelers continued to show heart and were rewarded with two tries in a row.
Fullback Ahsee Tuala was the first recipient after a Wellington chip ahead went wrong and some good old-fashioned mauling resulted in hooker Ilaisa Ma'asi being driven over the chalk.
Gear had his fourth in the 52nd minute, again a relative stroll to the tryline as he found himself on the end of the chain in the left-hand corner.
It took another 17 minutes for the next Lions try – their eighth – and it was replacement No.8 Mathew Luamanu who grabbed it seconds after prop Neemia Tialata almost barged over in his 50th match for Wellington.
That was followed by the final try of the night which was claimed by Scott Fuglistaller in the dying minutes of a busy display from the openside flanker.
The bonus-point win, Wellington's fourth victory of the season, puts its campaign back on track ahead of a potentially tricky away clash with Taranaki in seven days time.
Counties-Manukau is still rooted to the bottom of the table and will be hoping to regain a number of key troops and the form that saw them beat Taranaki a fortnight ago in its only success of 2009 so far.
Wellington 62 (Gear 4, Jane, Kirkpatrick, Fruean, Luamanu, Fuglistaller tries; Kirkpatrick 5 cons, pen, Fili 2 cons) Counties-Manukau 19 (Cummins, Tuala, Ma'asi tries; Nanai-Williams 2 cons) HT: 36-7