Wellington have sealed their place in domestic rugby’s Premiership semi-finals with a 34-10 win over Taranaki in their final regular season match in New Plymouth.
The result means Taranaki will be relegated to the second tier Championship next season.
The match also marked the return of All Blacks hooker Dane Coles from long-term injury.
Wellington’s win means North Harbour, who play Auckland on Sunday, now can’t reach the playoffs.
Coles has rarely been sighted over the past two years as he dealt with several injuries including concussion and serious knee damage and hadn’t played since the All Blacks
victory over France last November.
He came on in the 64th minute, replacing Asafo Aumua, and hit the ground running, securing loose ball a few metres from the goal-line before Sitiveni Paongo scored for the visitors.
For a season that started with the Ranfurly Shield, but foundered on a long injury list, it was a frustrating end for Taranaki.
Scorers: Taranaki 10 (Warwick Lahmert tries; Beaudein Waaka con, pen) Wellington 34 (Vaea Fifita, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Matt Proctor, Malo Tuitama, Sitiveni Paongo tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, pen; Trent Renata con). HT: 10-12