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Wellington continues perfect start

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Friday, September 5, 2008    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

The rampant Lions, now on a perfect 30 points after six rounds, were given an early scare as they trailed 5-6 at halftime but superior fitness and class saw them run in five second-half tries to one.

Still, the runaway favourite after the opening five rounds showed there is still plenty to work on if they have designs on emulating Auckland's 2007 effort of claiming the silverware in an unbeaten season.

In a scrappy first half, the sole try of the first 40 minutes went to Lions No.8 Thomas Waldrom from a smart set-piece move after 16 minutes.

Opting for a scrum, despite being dominated in that area early on, Waldrom went off the back before fullback Cory Jane sliced through and Waldrom backed up in fine loose forward style to score.

Manawatu hit back with a pair of Matty James penalties to reclaim the lead with just over 10 minutes before the break.

Wellington had a whopping 82 percent of first-half territory but was well off the form that saw the Lions thump Bay of Plenty 48-12 last Saturday.

Manawatu coach Dave Rennie, also a former boss of Wellington, wanted his side to use a more attacking mindset in the second half.

However, it was the visitors who scored first through a brilliant 80m movement.

Following a huge break from Jane out of nothing, the ball was recycled and in-form wing Hosea Gear sliced through a gap left by the injured Andre Taylor - who was subsequently stretchered off with a head knock - and scored his eighth try in six matches.

The strength of Wellington's squad was exhibited as former All Black lock Ross Filipo and NZ Sevens star Victor Vito were subbed on following Gear's try.

It looked as if Wellington might struggle to record a sixth consecutive four-try bonus-point but three quick tries midway through the second 40 put those doubts to rest.

Wing Tu Umaga-Marshall and Filipo dotted down in the right-hand corner following waves of sustained Lions pressure while Jane, the outstanding presence of the match, grabbed a deserved five-pointer as Filipo burst upfield and fed the final pass.

One of Manawatu's many New Zealand under-20 reps, fullback Kurt Baker, also received reward for a busy night at the back as he scored a consolation try with eight minutes left.

Wellington captain Jeremy Thrush finished the scoring three minutes from time from a smart Tamati Ellison cross-kick for a 23-point victory.

Wellington 36 (T. Waldrom, Gear, Umaga-Marshall, Filipo, Jane, Thrush tries; Filii 2 cons) Manawatu 13 (Baker try; Thompson con, M. James 2 pens)