The PIC Steelers’ Bunnings Warehouse NPC season came to a disappointing end on a wet Sunday afternoon at Navigation Homes Stadium - the hosts falling 64-31 to a rampant Wellington Lions team in a free-wheeling fixture.
Wearing a one-off 1990s-inspired heritage jersey in honour of the province’s late, great wingers Jonah Lomu and Joeli Vidiri, the PIC Steelers started strongly in front of a vocal crowd of more than 3,000.
Both sides traded early tries in the opening 11 minutes but before long it was one-way traffic in a tough first half with the visitors ultimately proving too good to take a 38-7 lead into the break.
Following the restart, the PIC Steelers then found themselves immediately on the back foot when Alex McRobbie was given a yellow card two minutes in.
Despite being reduced to 14 men, dynamic winger Benji Malimali scored soon after to give the packed grandstand a small shred of hope.
It was not to be, however, with Wellington dangerous on attack throughout the match.
Kauvaka Kaivelata scored after the siren to take the PIC Steelers past 30 points but by that stage the Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy was well and truly locked away for Wellington for another year.
The loss sees new PIC Steelers coach Reon Graham’s first season in charge come to an end. Fielding an all-local squad, Graham’s troops boasted wins over Otago, Manawatu and Bay of Plenty from their 10 games to finish sixth overall in the “odds pool” with 20 competition points.
The Lions, meanwhile, will head home to Wellington for next week’s quarter-final game against Hawke’s Bay.
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