Auckland responded in just the way their coach Wayne Pivac would have wanted tonight, getting a big 43-32 win over the previously undefeated Taranaki at Eden Park.
Auckland's season has been blighted by two bad losses - to Canterbury and Bay of Plenty - but each time they have reacted to the rark up Pivac no doubt gave them by posting convincing wins.
Guided by the improving Gareth Anscombe, who nailed all eight of his kicks at goal, the Auckland backline was at its rip-roaring best.
Charles Piutau, Dave Thomas and Malakai Fekitoa all impressed, while openside flanker Sean Polwart pushed closer to a Super Rugby contract with another consistent performance.
Taranaki had their moments too, Kurt Baker looked dangerous on attack as always, and Jason Eaton penetrated the Auckland defence a few times, picking up a couple of tries.
But it's debatable how much their Ranfurly Shield defence against Canterbury took out of Taranaki - there was less energy and aggression in their play than there was on Saturday.
Right from the kick-off Auckland attacked and in the third minute Piutau took advantage of an overlap to score in the right corner.
But the bad news for Auckland was on the other wing, where George Moala was being stretchered off with a suspected broken leg, while Piutau's try was being scored.
If that turns out to be the case it could be the second straight year he turns up late to the Blues because of injury.
Anscombe landed a penalty shortly after, but with Taranaki's first real attack in the 19th minute Eaton scored the visitor's opening try, stretching out his 2.02m body while being tackled by Thomas.
A minute before the half hour mark, Western Force-bound Alby Mathewson slipped out of one tackle and dodged another to run 25m for Auckland's second try, while before the break Taranaki first-five Jack Cameron goaled a penalty.
After two more Anscombe penalties, Eaton scored his second try of the night for Taranaki to make the score 23-13 in the home side's favour.
But quick tries from Steven Luatua and Nathan Hughes just after sealed the match for Auckland and gave them a bonus point.
Auckland were guilty of taking their foot off the gas late in the game though, coughing up tries to Jack Cameron, Jamison Gibson-Park and Jackson Ormond to allow Taranaki to take a bonus point from the game as well.
Both sides will be in action again on Saturday, with Auckland playing Wellington at home while Taranaki face Northland.
Auckland 43 (Charles Piutau, Alby Mathewson, Steven Luatua, Nathan Hughes tries; Gareth Anscombe 4 cons, 4 pens, Simon Hickey pen)
Taranaki 32 (Jason Eaton 2, Jack Cameron, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jackson Ormond tries; Cameron pen, 2 cons)
- © Fairfax NZ News
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