Auckland shoot back to top of Mitre 10 Cup

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Thursday, October 4, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

A three-try burst in 13 minutes during the second stanza helped guide Auckland home, but the visitors were under the knuckle in the first hour of the clash before the five-pointers to captain TJ Faiane, Salesi Rayasi and Jordan Trainor sunk a sagging Lions outfit. 

The Lions roared early in the 50th matches in the colours for Jackson Garden-Bachop and captain Matt Proctor. Flanker Galu Taufale scored first after constant pressure.

Auckland was flat on attack and unable to secure field position until centre Tumua Manu ran a good angle to score his fifth try of the season after a Melani Nanai thrust.

The Lions then twice thwarted Auckland tryscoring opportunities. Malo Tuitama and Matt Proctor both held up Rayasi over the line after he sprinted 50m from an intercept. Akira Ioane, who had a torrid battle with his Lions counterpart Teariki Ben-Nicholas, lost the ball over the line in a Taufale tackle.

The home side was sitting pretty after two early second spell strikes. Ben-Nicholas ran a hole and offloaded to second five Thomas Umaga-Jensen for the score, while Ben Lam crossed out wide off a long Garden-Bachop ball. The Lions were 24-10 to the good, while Auckland could not eliminate its errors.

But suddenly, as if on cue, Faiane scored a try out of nothing from a Dalton Papali’i turnover. The Auckland No 12 showed nifty footwork and then bolted 40m for the try. When Mateaki Kafatolu was binned for a dangerous tackle on Evan Olmstead, Auckland sensed an opening. There was more sting in the tackle, and that led to more points.
Rayasi scored, the last pass delivered by Trainor after a strong Ioane surge off the scrum, still an area of strength for the 2018 Auckland vintage.

Faiane made another long break and set up Trainor to finish from almost 95m. Auckland had the lead and closed it out smartly.

Wellington faded, and will be annoyed at not posting more early points. The Lions remain fourth, with North Harbour still a chance at cracking the semifinals. Auckland move up to 36 points, three clear of Tasman.

Wellington will finish its regular season campaign on Friday week when it travels to Taranaki, while Auckland is in Invercargill next Wednesday night to face the Southland Stags as the middle game in its ‘Storm Week.’

Duane Monkley Medal points
3: Teariki Ben-Nicholas (Wellington)
2: Akira Ioane (Auckland)
1: TJ Faiane (Auckland)

Auckland 29 (Tumua Manu, TJ Faiane, Salesi Rayasi, Jordan Trainor tries: Harry Plummer 3 con, pen) Wellington 24 (Galu Taufale, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Ben Lam tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 con, pen) HT: 10-7 Wellington