Unbeaten Auckland knock back Canterbury

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Sunday, September 16, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The win left Auckland unbeaten in their 2018 campaign, with a game in hand, and in front of the competition, while the loss was Canterbury's second resulting in Wellington slipping into a share of second place.

After the frustrations of recent years for an Auckland side that were in danger of relegation last year, it was a welcome all-round display with a fine forward effort complemented by decisive back play which saw captain and second five-eighths TJ Faiane score a hat-trick of tries.
Auckland gained early benefit from their ability to hold Canterbury players in tackles resulting in mauls being called by referee Nick Briant and turnovers resulting. No.8 Akira Ioane played a central role in that area along with lock Jack Whetton. They also put in some strong tackles at times which resulted in ball being lost as a result of the force in the tackle.

But equally Canterbury lock Luke Romano was up for the challenge with a powerful game on the charge.

Canterbury were entitled to wonder what they were up against when Faiane scored his hat-trick try in the 48th minute. It came when Plummer kicked from his goal-line after a sustained period of play from Canterbury. But wing Melani Nanai fielded the kick and flung a pass infield which was taken by centre Tumua Manu to carry play forward.

Nanai then made another bust on the blindside from the ruck and he linked with Manu down the sideline to pass inside to Faiane who had come up in support and got over for the try in the tackle.

Flanker Dalton Papalii, given a chance to start due to the belated withdrawal of captain Blake Gibson, pulled off a scrum intercept one minute after the start, getting his hands on a pass from Canterbury halfback Mitch Drummond as the scrum screwed. He raced 65m downfield before being dragged in by wing Caleb Makene. Support came from first five-eighths Harry Plummer who took the ball down the sideline before he flicked it inside to skipper and Faiane.

Four minutes later, Faiane was in again after the tight forwards had hammered the goal-line before finally halfback Jonathan Ruru popped a pass for Faiane to power over when running a close line.

Canterbury seized their moment when hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate finished off some good play by the pack to get them on the board after 12 minutes.

But Auckland played with control to build constructive opportunities and after an impressive build-up through phase play halfback Ruru scored to give them a 22-8 lead after 29 minutes.

As the half wound down Canterbury had the confidence to opt for a lineout from a penalty and instead of opting for a driving maul, they worked a play off the back of the lineout which saw flanker Reed Prinsep make a strong burst and in the supporting action prop Sef Fa'agase scored to pull the halftime margin back to 22-15 to Auckland.

Canterbury had the satisfaction of a strong finish, scoring two tries in the last minute to take two bonus points for their efforts with tries to replacements, prop Chris King and hooker Brodie McAlister.

Duane Monkley Medal points:

3 - TJ Faiane
2 – Jonathan Ruru
1 – Luke Romano

Scorers: Canterbury 29 (Greg Pleasants-Tate, Sef Fa'agase, Chris King, Brodie McAlister tries; Brett Cameron 3 con, pen) Auckland 34 (TJ Faiane 3, Jonathan Ruru, Tumua Manu tries; Harry Plummer 3 con, pen). HT: 22-15