Au­mua stars for Lions

Upper Hutt Leader - - CLASSIFIED - HAMISH BIDWELL

They’re just names on a bit of pa­per to most of us.

But for Welling­ton cen­tre Wes Goosen, play­ers such as Seta Ta­mani­valu, Waisake Na­holo, Johnny Fa’auli, Char­lie Ngatai and Sean Wainui pre­sented a very real and ob­vi­ous dan­ger.

Put them all to­gether and Taranaki didn’t ar­rive at West­pac Sta­dium with the worst back­line to ever play pro­vin­cial rugby in New Zealand.

‘‘Not the smallest, ei­ther,’’ Goosen joked af­ter Welling­ton’s im­pres­sive 42-26 win.

Taranaki are meant to be con­tenders for this year’s premier­ship ti­tle.

Welling­ton, on the other hand, haven’t been part of pro­vin­cial rugby’s top ech­e­lon since 2014.

But you wouldn’t have known that from how things panned out on Satur­day.

Welling­ton held sway for long pe­ri­ods of the match, burst­ing out to an early 24-0 lead af­ter tries to hooker Asafo Au­mua and wings Ben Lam and Ju­lian Savea. But 24-0 soon be­came 24-14 and later 30-19 and, on each oc­ca­sion, you as­sumed Taranaki were on the cusp of rous­ing come­backs. In­stead, Welling­ton were the team that showed the nec­es­sary re­solve.

‘‘It was good to ac­tu­ally stop their mo­men­tum and then get the mo­men­tum back and fin­ish a vic­tory. We’ve lost games like that in the past, so it was good to show that fight,’’ said Goosen.

‘‘It’s a good win and a good lift for the boys to see where we are. ‘‘Yeah, it’s awe­some.’’ Goosen was good again. Cap­tain Brad Shields never lets you down, locks Sam Lousi and James Black­well were ex­cel­lent, flanker Du’Plessis Kir­ifi looks a good find and first five-eighth Jack­son Gar­den-Ba­chop was among the oth­ers to im­press.

But it’s hard not to fo­cus on Au­mua. The Avalon player’s first try, from 22 me­tres out, was bril­liant, be­fore he latched onto a Goosen kick in the sec­ond half, fended off Taranaki wing De­clan O’Don­nell and raced 40 me­tres to score.

Au­mua, a for­mer St Pa­trick’s Col­lege, Sil­ver­stream stu­dent, is 20 and shy and raw and you are naturally wary of talk­ing him up. But, with ball in hand, he does things than few hook­ers can and that abil­ity is go­ing to take him places.

Goosen said the Lions call Au­mua ‘‘the Hulk’’ and just work on a pol­icy of feed­ing him the ball and back­ing up.

‘‘He’s an­other ver­sion of Dane Coles.

‘‘Colesy has that run­ning game and he has that run­ning game and he’s a freak and it’s good to watch and good that he’s on your team,’’ Goosen said.

The cen­tre had hopes of scor­ing him­self, when he dinked his sec­ond-half chip over the top, only for Au­mua to pounce.

‘‘I was wait­ing on the in­side for the pass but he just did his thing and that’s what he does best,’’ said Goosen.

You had to feel for O’Don­nell, although there’s a fair chance he won’t be the last wing Au­mua leaves grasp­ing.

As good as Satur­day’s out­come was for Au­mua and com­pany, Taranaki will won­der how the game got away from them.

Ngatai, Wainui, flanker Lach­lan Boshier and Na­holo all scored tries but, over­all, there was just a sense that Taranaki were slightly off the pace.

They started slow and grad­u­ally worked their way back into things, with­out ever gain­ing the con­trol you might ex­pect from a team of their cal­i­bre.

(Asafo Au­mua 2, Ben Lam, Ju­lian Savea, Re­gan Ver­ney tries; Jack­son Gar­den 3 con, 3 pen, Dan Kirk­patrick con)

(Char­lie Ngatai, Sean Wainui, Lach­lan Boshier, Waisake Na­holo tries; Stephen Pero­feta 3 con).

Welling­ton 42 Taranaki 26

PHOTO: HAGEN HOP­KINS/GETTY IM­AGES

Welling­ton open­side flanker Du’Plessis Kir­ifi pops a pass against Taranaki.

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