Wellington too classy for Bay of Plenty
Tue, 25 Sep 2012 9:55p.m.
Wellington reclaimed top spot in the national provincial championship with a hard-fought 36-26 win over Bay of Plenty in Mt Maunganui on Tuesday.
First five-eighth Lima Sopoaga was faultless with his eight shots at goal to kick 21 points as his side outscored the hosts three tries to two.
The result lifts Wellington level atop the Premiership division standings alongside Auckland, who have played one less game, while Bay of Plenty remain rooted in fifth place with a two win-five loss record that leaves them little chance of reaching the semi-finals.
Sopoaga's boot and the extra class in the Wellington outside backs proved decisive in an open affair as the visitors avenged a humiliating 32-0 loss when the teams met at the same venue last year.
Bay of Plenty dominated much of the first half but trailed 23-16 at the break, having conceded long range tries to lock Ross Filipo and winger Alipate Leiua - the latter a spectacular 90m team effort.
The hosts led 10-3 through an early try to winger Mafi Kefu and the first of four penalties landed by first five-eighth Chris Noakes.
It was a mixed evening for new Blues Super Rugby recruit Noakes, who made his share of errors but kicked 16 points and set up both the Bay of Plenty tries through slick passes.
Their second try was scored by winger Lelia Masaga, shortly after a try to second five-eighth Shaun Treeby had put Wellington 30-16 up with half an hour to play.
Wellington's fifth win from seven matches puts them in the box seat to qualify for the semi-finals as they have a relatively friendly draw for their remaining three matches of the regular season.
It is the opposite for Bay of Plenty, who look to have lost influential lock Culum Retallick for the remainder of the season after he limped from the field with a painful ankle injury.
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