Turbos' defence falls short
Of scant consolation for the wounded Manawatu Turbos was that they had to hit the road today and cross the Brynderwyns to another of their burial grounds at Whangarei.
Their 77-8 massacre there by Northland in 2010 bore too much resemblance to the 59-16 try-scoring romp by Auckland at Eden Park yesterday.
Of some solace is that Manawatu did rebound from that to win a few games, including beating Wellington. But if the gun-shy backline doesn't tackle on Wednesday against Rene Ranger and the Taniwha, a long night beckons.
There was even a boisterous easterly wind coming off Mt Eden yesterday which should have felt familiar for Manawatu. After trailing 31-13 at halftime, Craig Clare slotted a penalty three minutes after the break and someone asked, “Is it an 18-point wind?”
It should have been but 10 minutes later Auckland screamed in for two more tries and it was curtains; the Manawatu backs were cut to ribbons. Even Gareth Anscombe looked like a missile and thankfully the Turbos weren't pumped by 70.
Auckland banged on about their short turnaround after losing to Canterbury, but maybe Manawatu's 9-day holding pattern did them no favours, too.
Even so, their backline defence which opened up to allow Auckland in for eight tries, was shocking. All Auckland, notably fullback Charles Piutau, had to do was apply the gas, run straight and the drafting gate weakly opened in midfield.
It was a stark indicator that not one Auckland forward scored a try.
It was also galling to see Palmerston North Boys' High School old boy Hadleigh Parkes carving up, the big lad from Ohingaiti captaining Auckland. Nick Crosswell fell off him and Eric Fry missed another but perhaps backs rather than covering forwards should have been making those tackles out wide.
Most of the supersonic Auckland backs are either new or came in last year and they had four players on debut yesterday. Some of us had even given Manawatu a chance of repeating their almost-win there of 2009.
At least Manawatu were 100 per cent impregnable in the lineout and the scrum was sound enough, so the foundations for a rebuild are there. Crosswell, Michael FitzGerald, who even put in a nice grubber, Rob Foreman and Fraser Stone toiled befitting true NPC forwards. FitzGerald had one of his best games.
But as the score mounted in the second half, so the forward effort at the breakdowns fell away and ball was turned over in first phase, and that spells death. The backs were hesitant on attack, too.
This was one of the more ignominious Turbos' defeats, in terms of the 43-point margin, in their seven years. It was embarrassing enough for the players to surely want to put things right.
There's no point in harping back to last season, but Auckland coach Wayne Pivac did.
“They had pretty good 9 and 10 last year, world class, and any team would find those hard to replace,” he said.
Perhaps, but centre Johnny Leota's vacancy is proving hard to fill, too.
Junior Tomasi Cama will do at first-five. His sneaky bust set up Callum Gibbins' try, but then we had no inkling that was to be it, after 23 minutes.
The finger must be pointed at the tackles missed. Frankie Bryant is a tough tackler but all of the backs were outgassed, Asaeli Tikoirotuma cannot be risked again at centre because he flies out of the line and new wing George Tilsley just couldn't contain Ben Lam.
Jason O'Halloran might as well start with Jason Emery, Lewis Marshall who can tackle but missed one to let in a try, and maybe Matenga Baker.
Turbos No 8 Hamish Gosling was heading home to have his shoulder damage assessed. Flanker Antonio Kiri Kiri was staying with the team and prop Grant Polson was expected to be fit for Wednesday's game.
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