Auckland’s second spell too good for Stags

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

The 16-time provincial champion was in the enviable position of having a game in hand over Tasman and Canterbury, meaning that, when it runs out against North Harbour on Sunday, it will know exactly what is required to cement top billing for the semifinals.

Auckland was not at its slick best for patches of the encounter, until later in the piece, but was far too good for the Stags, illustrating the gulf between the top of the Premiership and bottom of the Premiership.

Once the visitors had sorted out their flow of ruck ball, which Southland disrupted in the first spell, the tries flowed. There were pleasing debuts for flanker Adrian Choat and replacement halfback Desma Liaina. Both scored tries, while Choat impressed with an industrious display and showed his skill with a flick pass to help set up Liaina.

Wing Salesi Rayasi was the star turn of the first half, scoring a 60m try from turnover ball and then making the break that led to the try by lock Faatiga Lemalu.

Harry Plummer was kicking the goals. He and replacement Daniel Kirkpatrick converted all eight Auckland tries in quality displays off the tee on a cold night with a fresh wind.

Auckland started to click into its offence as the second stanza wore on. Hooker Mike Sosene took the points from two separate lineout mauls. Centre Tumua Manu ran a good line off a flat Jonathan Ruru pass, while replacement Caleb Clarke scored his first Auckland try, latching onto a kick-pass by Kirkpatrick.

The Stags pack was competitive in the early exchanges, but ultimately found itself over-run by a young Auckland forwards unit growing in confidence. However, there was reward when replacement prop Joe Walsh crashed over from close range.

Both teams round out their regular season on Sunday. Auckland hosts North Harbour at Eden Park in the Battle of the Bridge reprise, while Southland travels to Manawatu.

Auckland 56 (Mike Sosene 2, Salesi Rayasi, Faatiga Lemalu, Tumua Manu, Caleb Clarke, Desma Liaina, Adrian Choat tries; Harry Plummer 5 con, Daniel Kirkpatrick 3 con) Southland 8 (Joe Walsh try; Tayler Adams pen) HT: 14-3 Auckland