The Auckland Aces successfully negotiated the threat of in-form batsman Jesse Ryder to handle the Wellington Firebirds by five wickets in their HRV Cup Twenty20 encounter in the capital tonight.
After dismissing the hosts cheaply for 116 runs, the defending T20 champions cruised to victory for the loss of five wickets, thanks to a 65-run opening stand by Lou Vincent and Australian Brad Hodge.
The enigmatic Vincent had 45 runs (including two sixes) off 46 runs to pace the innings, before he was bowled by Aussie speedster Shaun Tait with just 19 runs required.
While everyone waited to see how the red-hot Ryder would fare against the Aces attack, Wellington just never picked up any momentum.
Opener Michael Pollard exited in the second over and then Mitchell McClenaghan picked up Ryder's prized wicket, when the batsman stroked a delivery straight to fielder Dusan Hakaraia with just nine runs to his name.
Australian Cameron Borgas was the only Firebird to stick around, but he lost team-mates at an alarming rate, unable to put together any kind of substantial partnership.
By the 12th over, they were 60-7 and just hanging on to salvage a respectable total.
Borgas finally found some support from Scott Kuggeleijn for a 37-run stand, before the latter departed for 24 off 21 balls.
The Aussie brought up his half century with a boundary, but departed the very next ball - caught Craig Cachopa, bowled McClenaghan - and the tailenders saw out the remaining over to post an inadequate target of 116.
McClenaghan and Hodge each snared three wickets for the Aces.
Vincent and Hodge always had the situation under control, cracking their first 50 runs off 33 balls. But the Aces experienced some speed wobbles with victory in sight, before Colin de Grandhomme and Cachopa guided them home.
All-rounder Colin Munro provided perhaps the highlight of the night, planting a six on the roof of Westpac Stadium, before he was removed in the 15th over.
"We're happy with the win - we'll take that," said Aces skipper Gareth Hopkins. "Pretty happy with how the boys bowled to set it up.
"Outstanding, the way Louie batted. I know he was disappointed not to see it home, but once they got off to that good start, it was always going to be hard for Wellington."
Auckland have lost some stars of their recent run at the Champions League tournament in South Africa, but Hopkins expected those remaining to step up and show the benefits of that experience in coming weeks.
They're next in action against Canterbury Wizards on December 21, while Northern Knights take on Central Stages next Friday.
Wellington Firebirds v Auckland Aces
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Ryder c Hakaraia b McClenaghan 9
Pollard c Vincent b Bates 1
Papps c Bates b McClenaghan 11
Borgas c Cachopa b McClenaghan 50
Ronchi b Martin 1
Elliott st Hopkins b Martin 6
Woodcock lbw b Hodge 3
Boam b Hodge 0
Kuggeleijn c Munro b Hodge 24
McKay run out (Hopkins/ Bates) 5
Tait not out 1
Extras (lb 4, wd 1, nb 0) 5
Total (for 10 wickets, 20.0 overs) 116
Fall: 1-10 (Pollard, 1.1), 2-16 (Ryder, 2.2), 3-27 (Papps, 4.2), 4-33 (Ronchi, 5.3), 5-52 (Elliott, 9.1), 6-60 (Woodcock, 11.1), 7-60 (Boam, 11.5), 8-97 (Kuggeleijn, 16.4), 9-113 (Borgas, 18.5), 10-116 (McKay, 19.6)
Bowling: Singh 4-0-34-0, Bates 4-0-18-1, McClenaghan 4-0-18-3 (1w), Martin 4-0-16-2, Hodge 3-0-16-3, Munro 1-0-10-0
Vincent b Tait 45
Hodge c McKay b Woodcock 22
Hakaraia b Tait 7
Hopkins lbw b Woodcock 1
Munro c Woodcock b Kuggeleijn 16
de Grandhomme not out 6
Cachopa not out 5
Extras (b 1, lb 6, wd 8, nb 0) 15
Total (for 5 wickets, 17.1 overs) 117
Fall: 1-65 (Hodge, 7.6), 2-87 (Hakaraia, 11.3), 3-88 (Hopkins, 12.1), 4-98 (Vincent, 13.5), 5-105 (Munro, 14.5)
Bowling: Kuggeleijn 3-0-17-1 (2w), Tait 4-0-33-2 (2w), McKay 3.1-0-13-0, Woodcock 4-0-28-2 (3w), Elliott 3-0-19-0
Auckland win by five wickets