Chastened Auckland look to improve vs Turbos

CAN'T GET THERE: Gareth Anscombe's Auckland was off the pace in their opening NPC match against Canterbury.
CAN'T GET THERE: Gareth Anscombe's Auckland was off the pace in their opening NPC match against Canterbury.

After just one game this season there has already been plenty of soul searching for Auckland.

There is no disgrace in losing to Canterbury. After all they've dominated the NPC for the past six years, but the enormity of Auckland's 48-9 loss last weekend stunned everyone with a passing interest in the game.

Even Canterbury coach Scott Robertson said he was shocked that his side won the game so easily and Auckland first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe said his team found it hard to take such a defeat.

"It was bitterly disappointing, nothing short of embarrassing really and we expect a lot more of ourselves," Anscombe told Sunday News ahead of today's game against Manawatu in Palmerston North.

"We went down there with a bit of confidence that we could shake things up, but it wasn't meant to be.

"We've looked at ourselves and put a bit of heat on a few of the leaders. I think we can all step up - we've got Super Rugby players here and we've been tough on ourselves this week and the boys are ready to face a strong Manawatu team."

What made last weekend's result all the more surprising was that this isn't an Auckland team lacking experience. Players like Anscombe, Francis Saili, Charles Piutau, Liaki Moli and Tom McCartney have all excelled at higher levels of the game, but they couldn't live with a ruthless Canterbury team that played with more energy.

"We were embarrassed in the sheds and everyone was pretty pissed off to be fair," Anscombe said.

"We have an exciting backline, we do have a few fresh faces in the pack, but across the board we weren't good enough and our forwards weren't as dominant as they would have liked and our backs made a hell of a lot of errors.

"Everyone's had a hard look at themselves, but at the same time, we don't want to be too negative because it was just the first week of the campaign. We've taken it on the chin and now we're expecting better of ourselves."

Manawatu won't be as tough to play against as Canterbury were, although they did have a good 28-23 away win over Northland last weekend, but if Auckland sort out their problems from last week, they should come home with at least four points.

This will most likely be Anscombe's last season of provincial rugby. He heads to the Cardiff Blues at the end of the campaign and as he has his sights set on one day playing for Wales, his move north is likely to be for a long time.

He missed all of last year's NPC because of a shoulder operation, so these are two key factors in why he wants this season to be a successful one.

"I always enjoy this competition, although it's not much fun when you get pumped by 50, but I really would like to leave my career here with a winning feeling."

The game starts at 2.35pm. Today's other match between Bay of Plenty and Tasman kicks off at 4.35pm.

Sunday News