Auckland leave Waikato languishing in NPC

EVAN PEGDEN
Last updated 17:33 08/09/2012

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Auckland beat Waikato in the national provincial rugby premiership for the first time since 2009 at Eden Park today, winning 32-22.

The home side scored four tries to three, their backs superior while the Waikato forwards commanded control in that area of the game.

In the end 22 turnovers proved costly for Waikato who failed to add a point to the six they have in the premiership to date.

It was their second loss in a row and their second in just three matches as they head into a tough week that includes a home match against Bay of Plenty on Tuesday night and then Wellington in Wellington next Saturday.

Waikato played into a rain-laced northerly in the first spell and had their hands full both in containing the hard-running Auckland backs and maintaining pressure with ball in hand.

But they would have been reasonably satisfied going under the Eden Park South Stand at halftime only 18-12 down and having matched the home team's two tries.

Auckland fullback Charles Piutau was dangerous both on counter-attack and regular attack, proving so difficult to put down that he beat at least the first tackler every time.

It was Piutau who scored the first try in the seventh minute after Waikato were again guilty of not looking after the ball in contact, penalised for the second time for not releasing in the tackle.

Auckland first-five Gareth Anscombe booted the ball down to the far end with the wind and from the subsequent lineout possession hard-running Auckland winger George Moala took the ball close to the line and Piutau finished off from a quick ruck.

Anscombe booted Auckland to a 10-0 advantage and it was not until the 22nd minute that Waikato started piling on the pressure with a series of phases inside the home team's half.

A Brendon Leonard blindside grubber kick to the corner nearly brought reward when first-five Piers Francis was first to the ball, but finally the visiting forwards got reward in the 22nd minute when flanker Zak Hohneck dived through a sea of bodies on the line to score.

Waikato's relief was shortlived with impressive Auckland centre Malakai Fekitoa scoring after a Hadleigh Parkes-initiated counter-attack to make it 15-5.

But Waikato started building pressure with good continuity on attack and finally a scrum tighthead brought the reward of try to skipper and No8 Alex Bradley.

Auckland finished with an Anscombe penalty goal from 43m out after the halftime hooter but a six-point lead was barely what they would have been wanting from first use of the wind.

Waikato got first points in the second half with a close-range Renata penalty goal after winger Tim Mikkelson punished an Auckland dropped ball with a deep kick and chase to make it 18-15.

But they were a little soft in defence soon after, allowing winger George Moala to power to the left corner and then the Auckland forwards to power over for a try to replacement loosie Joe Edwards.

And if that was soft the following try two minutes later to Moala for the bonus point was even softer, powering through the hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone's tackle, Anscombe's conversion taking the lead out to 32-15.

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Waikato had to do something to get back into the game and they did, again the forwards exerting a lot of pressure from pick-and-go attack after an attacking lineout, replacement prop Ted Tauroa got over in a pile of bodies but replays were not convincing and instead another 5m scrum was ordered.

Skipper Bradley again was the beneficiary on the back of a superior scrum as Waikato pushed over from 5m and Renata converted to narrow the deficit to 10 at 32-22.

By now there was no doubting the Waikato tactics, which involved the forwards exclusively but again turnovers proved costly.

Scorers: Auckland 32 (Charles Piutau, Malakai Fekitoa, Joe Edwards, George Moala tries; Gareth Anscombe 3 conversions, 2 penalty goals) Waikato 22 (Alex Bradley 2, Zak Hohneck tries; Trent Renata 2 conversions, penalty goal). Halftime: 18-12 Auckland.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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