Auks grind out local derby win

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Saturday, August 18, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

This Premiership clash always appealed as a rugged encounter, and there was niggle aplenty in the packs as befits this annual Dan Bryant Memorial Trophy stoush.


Counties Manukau unsurprisingly brought its physical approach to the forward exchanges and set-pieces, while Auckland looked more penetrative and put the visitors’ defence under severe pressure. If first five Harry Plummer had done better than three from seven from the tee, though he was solid in general play, Auckland may have moved out to safety long before the fulltime whistle. As it was, new Auckland coach Alama Ieremia will take satisfaction at the most important factor: the four Premiership competition points.

The Steelers grabbed the early initiative with a bulldozing try to tighthead prop Kalolo Tuiloma. Auckland’s riposte was swift and deadly, debutant wing Salesi Rayasi finishing an expert chip over the top by centre Tumua Manu.

While the Steelers’ scrum was, for the most part, dominant, Sam Henwood’s try stemmed from a lineout drive.

Auckland hit back via captain Blake Gibson, as the Auckland pack made inroads with its offloading strategy. When wing Melani Nanai danced over after a messy lineout, Auckland claimed a 20-14 halftime advantage.

The only try in the second stanza came from Steelers loosehead prop Howard Sililoto off another effective lineout drive.

The visitors will rue their missed tackles, 16 of them in the first half alone. While that tightened up in the second spell, they were up against some solid Auckland pack performers, namely blindside flanker Dalton Papali’i and lineout ace Jamie Lane. There was time for several debuts on both sides.

Auckland travels to Northland next Sunday, while Counties Manukau host Bay of Plenty on Thursday night.

*In a rousing Auckland 1A First XV final curtainraiser, St Peter’s won its first title since the Brad Mika days of 2000 by edging King’s 29-28.

Auckland 23
(Salesi Rayasi, Blake Gibson, Melani Nanai tries; Harry Plummer con, 2 pen) Counties Manukau 19 (Kalolo Tuiloma, Sam Henwood, Howard Sililoto tries; Latiume Fosita 2 con) HT: 20-14 Auckland.