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Auckland ease relegation fears

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Saturday, September 30, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

The much-needed victory has lifted Auckland from the wooden spoon position in the Premiership but has dealt a big blow to Bay of Plenty’s Championship playoff hopes. 

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Auckland have been chronic slow-starters in 2017 but came out a different side to leave the Steamers shell-shocked at 17-0 down after a frantic opening 10 minutes.

With sponsor Barfoot and Thompson offering $2,000 per try to Starship Hospital for the match, electric wing Joe Ravouvou banked $4,000 for the charity with a stunning double in the first 10 minutes.

While expansive with ball in hand, Auckland were keen to make the most of any scoring opportunities and opted for the posts whenever they were in range. The tactic paid off with three Jono Hickey penalties helping the home side to a 23-0 lead at the halftime break.

Bay of Plenty were their own worst enemy in the first half with a high error count giving them no chance to get into the game.

Auckland started the second half in the same fashion as the first with two stunning tries. The first was finished by fullback Melani Nanai after a searing break by Vince Aso. Not long after Aso had a try of his own following an excellent run by powerful loose forward Taleni Seu.



Another Hickey penalty extended Auckland’s lead to 38-0 with just 20 minutes to play. Although they were out of the match, Bay of Plenty dominated the final quarter with three tries to put some respectability into the final score of 38-19.

While Auckland’s four tries were all eye-catching, credit must be paid to their defence in the opening 60 minutes. Playing with only 38 percent of possession for the match, Auckland stood firm on defence and only let Bay of Plenty in when the game was fully out of their reach.

A loss for Auckland would have had them staring down the barrel of demotion to the Championship. But the win has taken them to 17 points and even put them in the mix for the fourth playoff spot with two matches remaining.

First time Auckland captain TJ Faiane said he was proud of his team’s effort: “We talked about building our game and playing with passion. We wanted to be direct first and make the gains out wide,” Faiane said.

Scorers:
Auckland 38 (Joe Ravouvou 2, Vince Aso, Melani Nanai tries, Jono Hickey, 4 pen, 2 con, Tyrone Elkington-MacDonald con) Bay of Plenty 19 (Henry Stowers, Tom Franklin, Jesse Paraete tries, Luke Campbell 2 con)
HT: 23-0