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Taranaki hammer Wellington in record-breaking style

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Sunday, October 9, 2016    Mitre10Cup.co.nz    Getty Images

Playing their third game in eight days, the hosts looked lost against their Premiership opponents in the first half. After scoring the first three points of the afternoon, the Lions were left licking their wounds as the visitors scored through Iopu Iopu-Aso and Stephen Perofeta to take a 17-3 halftime lead.

The onslaught continued in the second half for the visitors, who made their possession and territorial dominance count with five second half tries to register their highest-ever score against Wellington.

The bonus-point, seven-tries-to-four win saw Taranaki return to second in the competition with 32 points, while Wellington picked up a bonus point to go level with Otago atop the Championship standings.

McKenzie was outstanding for the visitors. He was threatening with ball in hand, his kicking play was also significant, topped off with a near-perfect seven-from-eight with the kicking tee.

The hosts' defence was the stuff of nightmares for Lions coach Earl Va'a. Considered favourites for promotion at the start of the season, Wellington have conceded 104 points in their last two matches. Wellington will target next Saturday's final round robin match against Waikato as one to tighten their defensive frailties, ahead of the Championship playoffs.

Wellington's set piece woes were on display early at Wespac Stadium. Having scored a penalty through Jackson Garden-Bachop, the Lions were almost immediately on the backfoot after collapsing in the scrum.

McKenzie levelled the score, and from there the Bulls did not look back. Within minutes, the outstanding Iopu-Aso scored thanks to a wayward Wellington lineout and a superb cut-out pass from McKenzie.

Garden-Bachop was shifted to fullback, to allow for Pakai Turia's inclusion at first five-eighths. The move hit a snag when the pair collided while trying to gather a McKenzie high ball. The ball scrambled loose, and was gobbled up by Perofeta to open up a 14-point lead.

Wellington had an opportunity to respond in the last minute of the first half with a lineout close to the Taranaki line, only for the Bulls to snaffle the lineout and bring an end to perhaps Wellington's worst opening half of the season.

The halftime break didn't stop Taranaki's momentum, and after a number of phases it was Toa Halafihi gave the Bulls a 24-3 lead after 43 minutes.

Seta Tamanivalu was the benefactor of McKenzie's second try assist of the afternoon with a tidy finish to give the Bulls its fourth try of the afternoon.

Perofeta's second try of the game was symptomatic of a tired defensive unit, with the fullback pushing off two defenders en route to the tryline.

Wellington were given a reprieve when Jarred Profitt was yellow carded in the 59th minute. Alex Fidow scored a minute later for the hosts to give Lions fans something to sarcastically smile about.

Sean Wainui and Jackson Ormond combined spectacularly for the latter to score in the corner for his first try of the season for Taranaki, before Joe Hill answered with a try for the hosts - his second against the visitors in his last two matches.

Perofeta converted his third try before James Blackwell and Mark Reddish inflated the score for the hosts with a bonus point.

Wellington 31 (Mark Reddish, James Blackwell, Joe Hill, Alex Fidow tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 4 con, pen) Taranaki 54 (Stephen Perofeta 3, Jackson Ormond, Seta Tamanivalu, Toa Halafihi, Iopu Iopu-Aso tries; Marty McKenzie 4 con, 3 pen, Perofeta con). HT: 3-17.