Auckland look bound for another moderate placing in this year's Air NZ Cup rugby championship after succumbing 12-8 to Tasman in Nelson today.
In a classic David-overcomes-Goliath scenario, the scoreline actually flattered Auckland, a union that has dominated the history of the national provincial championships but whose reputation is starting to take a battering.
They didn't deserve victory at Trafalgar Park, the country's biggest union being outplayed up front by the Air NZ Cup's smallest, allowing Tasman to surge past them into fifth place.
With four rounds remaining Auckland are seventh but, following last week's limp loss to North Harbour, are sinking fast and threatening to finish near their 11th placing of last year.
Playing with a strong wind at their back, Auckland conceded a costly try to Tasman captain Andrew Goodman soon before halftime to trail 3-7.
The hosts bagged their second soon after the break to winger Blair Cook, taking advantage of a non-existent blindside defence.
They remained 12-3 up for much of the remainder before Auckland's reserve hooker Pat Leafa handed them a glimmer of hope, scoring off a sizzling break by winger Atieli Pakalani with five minutes remaining.
A Tasman loss would have been a travesty after overwhelming the visitors at scrum and lineout time while edging the breakdown battle, where Auckland coach Mark Anscombe took a gamble by playing regular No 8 Peter Saili at openside flanker in one of 10 changes.
Tasman also played usual halfback Kahn Fotuali'i out of position at first five-eighth and he responded well, keeping the ball in hand through much of the first spell into the elements.
Today's result was an epic reversal of the teams' only previous meeting, when Auckland prevailed 46-6 three years ago.
Tasman 12 (Andrew Goodman, Blair Cook tries; Goodman con)
Auckland 8 (Pat Leafa try; Ash Moeke pen).
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