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Wellington keep Shield in safe keeping

Published: 5:20PM Thursday July 09, 2009 Source: NZPA

Wellington were made to work hard for their rewards before retaining rugby's Ranfurly Shield against Wanganui on Thursday.

Wellington won their second shield defence of the season 61-6 at Cooks Gardens in Wanganui but not before the home side asked questions of their resolve.

A week after swatting aside Wairarapa-Bush 90-19 in Masterton, Wellington expected a sterner challenge, and they got it, too.

Wanganui held the visitors to 6-26 until midway through the second half before two tries within one minute to wing David Smith and second five-eighth Charlie Ngatai gave the visitors sudden momentum.

The lower division Means Cup champions actually had the better of the contest for 20min up until that point but they lacked the cutting thrust and pace in the backs to make full use of the possession won by their forwards.

Smith clinically finished a move notable for some outstanding handling by fellow winger Alipate Leiua, who retained hold the ball by rolling it on his hip before spreading it wide.

All of 60 seconds later Ngatai scored himself after centre Shaun Treeby pulled off an intercept, and 8min later Treeby joined the tryscorers' list when Leiua beat two defenders on the right flank.

Leiua was then gifted the space he needed to stroll in for his second try with 5min remaining on the clock, before Treeby broke three tacklers to set up replacement Frae Wilson to raise the half century.

Wanganui fully deserved a try of their own, but they were twice denied when they looked likely in the last quarter, with fullback Asaeli Tikoirotuma involved in both instances.

Tikoirotuma set off for the tryline at one stage only to be called back for a forward pass and later was dragged down less than 1m short of his target by desperate Wellington defenders.

Wellington's next shield defence doubles as their opening Air NZ Cup home match, against Otago in Wellington on July 31.

Wellington 61 (Alipate Leiua 2, Daniel Kirkpatrick, David Smith, Charlie Ngatai, Shaun Treeby, Frae Wilson, Brendan Watt tries; Kirkpatrick 3 pen, 3 con, Fa'atonu Fili 3 con)

Wanganui 6 (Denny Tyrell 2 pen).

Halftime: 23-3.

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