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Auckland hold off spirited Taranaki

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Saturday, September 22, 2018    Getty Images

Taranaki came into the contest with their backs against the wall and needing a victory to lift themselves off the bottom of the Premiership ladder. It was always going to be a tough ask against a high-flying Auckland side but Taranaki had the chance to win with time up on the clock.

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After stretching Auckland on defence and scoring out wide through replacement back Ciarhan Matoe in the 82nd minute, first five-eighth Stephen Perofeta was tasked with landing the conversion from the corner to claim the victory.

It was Perofeta’s first shot at goal all night, and to make matters worse, a blustery wind had caused the two regular kickers trouble all night.

Perofeta’s attempt at goal just glanced away from the uprights but he was granted a second shot at goal due to Auckland rushing off the line early.

In a scene reminiscent to Aaron Cruden for the All Blacks against Ireland in 2013, Perofeta lined up the match winning goal for a second time. But unlike Cruden in 2013, Perofeta’s second shot at goal shanked right and Auckland had the one point win.

The victory catapulted Auckland back to the top of the Premiership ladder, while Taranaki picked up what could end up being a crucial two bonus points. The Bulls are still bottom of the Premiership on 12 points but lie just one point behind Counties Manukau, although the Steelers have a game in hand.

The game couldn’t have started in a worse fashion for Taranaki as they fumbled the ball at the kick off and Akira Ioane charged over the line with just 29 seconds down on the clock.



But Auckland were made to work a lot harder for their remaining tries as Taranaki steeled up on defence and spread the ball at any opportunity.

Stephen Perofeta had been missing from the Bulls line-up since the opening round due to injury but showed how much he had been missed by slicing through the Auckland defence in the 22nd minute to put the Bulls hot on attack. It was fitting that it was their other main attacking weapon who finished the movement when Tamanivalu plucked the ball from the ruck and beat two defenders down the short side to score.

Auckland had the final say in the first half when Akira Ioane and Jonathan Ruru linked down the blindside to give Auckland a 13-19 halftime lead.

There were more lead changes in the second half but a double to exciting wing Salesi Rayasi proved the difference as Auckland leapt to a 20-31 lead with just ten minutes remaining.

Taranaki showed great heart and enterprise to score two tries in the final ten minutes to claim two bonus points which may end up being vital to their chances of staying in the Premiership.

Duane Monkley Medal points:

3: Pita Sowakula
2: Salesi Rayasi
1: Tom Florence

Scorers:
Taranaki 30 (Seta Tamanivalu, Tom Florence, Mitch Crosswell, Ciarahn Matoe tries, Beaudein Waaka 2 pen, 2 con) Auckland 31 (Akira Ioane, Tumua Manu, Salesi Rayasi 2, Jonathan Ruru, tries, Harry Plummer 3 con)
HT: 13-19