Auckland leave Otago in tatters

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Saturday, October 1, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

A hat-trick by centre Rieko Ioane headlined Auckland's effort in which he achieved back-to-back hat-tricks for only the fourth time in the national championship, following Deon Muir (Waikato), John Timu and Brendan Laney (both Otago) while his skipper first five-eighths Simon Hickey scored a try in a 21-point haul to reach 117 points for the season.

Pressure told on Otago at crucial stages and Auckland were in a rare mood and made Otago pay. It didn't help that Auckland managed to find a continuity to the driving play, often being relentless in their ability to pick and go, and to make good yards.

The return of prop Sam Prattley and No.8 Steven Luatua lifted the experience factor while also increasing the execution levels with prop Marcel Renata, lock Scott Scrafton busy with the ball in hand and getting support from hooker Kurt Eklund.

It was a demonstration of just how effective Auckland can be when they are playing in unison.

But for Otago it was a nightmare, their second loss in succession and they have good cause to be thankful for their points buffer in the Championship. Management were clearly unimpressed and made a wave of substitutions after Auckland scored another try, to first five-eighths Simon Hickey, one minute into the second half, when he easily strode through the defence.

The visitors' pain was extended when they lost key players, captain and No.8 Paul Grant and lock Josh Dickson within minutes of each other late in the second half.

Rieko Ioane found room in midfield 10 minutes into the game when the ball popped out of a ruck and swooped to open the scoring with a typically strong-running try. He scored his second 46 minutes into the game after good work by Scrafton and flanker Akira Ioane, another who got through plenty of work on the night.

And his third was made possible when replacement fullback Latiume Fosita made a break and fed Ioane who raced 35m unchallenged.

Hickey thrived with his forwards enjoying such positive momentum and it was his blindside pirouette through the Otago defence that allowed him to get through and then feed supporting flanker Taleni Seu in for his 22nd minute try.

Hickey ran again two minutes later and from the breakdown second five-eighths Vince Aso carried it on and from the breakdown it was fullback Melani Nanai who slipped a kick into the corner where wing Lolagi Visini was able to secure the bouncing ball and cross for the try.

Nanai had his own reward in the 36th minute after Otago dropped the ball close to the Otago line, it was tidied by Aso and prop Marcel Renata before Nanai was given the ball 80m out and made no race of scoring.

There was final reward for Otago after the half-time hooter when they managed to hold onto the ball during a sequence of drives which saw prop Donald Brighouse get over the line for a try.

Scorers: Auckland 54 (Rieko Ioane 3, Taleni Seu, Lolagi Visinia, Melani Nanai, Simon Hickey tries; Simon Hickey 5 con, 2 pen) Otago 17 (Donald Brighouse, Jonah Aoina tries; Fletcher Smith con, pen; Stephen Eade con). HT: 27-10.