It was the usual build up. The crap music, the spectacular hutt city dancers, the fireworks and the jeering as Jonah Lomu's name was announced in the starting line-up. There is a perception by many here that Lomu is an overpaid, underperforming carpet-bagger. Personally I feel that our forwards haven't been good enough to give the guy the space out wide and quality ball that he needs. All too frequently Lomu is handed the ball in his own half, with five guys lining up to tackle him. This is just plain dumb I'm afraid.
Last night Wellington simply wasn't good enough against a team which adapted to the conditions and played sensible football. Maybe the demise of the park has made our boys soft. Then again the conditions were worse at Carisbrook a few weeks ago and Wellington won that one. It was certainly going to be difficult without either Filo Tia Tia or Kupu Vanisi (who had a bit of a temperature before the game).
Whatever the reason, Carlos Spencer made the most of a swirling wind and persistent rain, by kicking the ball into Wellington's half and waiting for someone to screw up. This happened far too often. Both Cullen and Lomu were guilty of dropping the up-and-under, which led to one of the three soft tries conceded to Auckland.
Wellington showed a distinct lack of imagination and patience in contrast, battering up the midfield (against a solid defensive line), throwing risky passes to the fabulous three and frequently turning the ball over as a result. Incidentally Wellington turned the ball over 26 TIMES in the match, 15 TIMES in the first half alone!!! Auckland only managed twelve turn-overs during the entire match.
Only once did they find the Auckland defence asleep, when Jerry Collins burst through the line to score towards the end of the first half. Wellington must show an ability to adapt to different tactics and conditions if they are to progress in what is the closest NPC competition in many years. Losing two out of four home games is certainly not going to help the cause and North Harbour, another Wellington 'bogey' team, are unlikely to make it any easier next week.