Auckland holds on to avoid repeat

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Saturday, August 14, 2010    Getty Images

Hanging on for the last two minutes as the home side attempted to snatch the win was made harder when Auckland lost hard-working flanker Onasa'i Auva'a for a deliberate infringement at a maul when he was sin-binned. It came only moments after Auva'a was denied reward for good work at a maul which looked to have created a turnover.

Given the miserable conditions the game was more of a competition than could have been reasonably expected. There was some running play as both teams looked to open up space but handling was always a risk and contributed to the lack of finish on several occasions.

Wing Lelia Masaga made a mistake in the wet conditions which demonstrated the need for careful decision-making. Caught with the ball just outside the Bay of Plenty 22m area, he threw a pass which was intercepted by Auckland second five-eighths Jamie Helleur. He found captain and flanker Daniel Braid in support. From the ruck, hooker Tom McCartney threw the ball wide where wing Atieli Pakalani crossed in the third minute for the try.

Bay of Plenty stormed back onto the attack and first five-eighths Phil Burleigh made a strong surge for the line, but Auckland's defence held and when Bay of Plenty infringed, Auckland cleared its line.

Matt Berquist landed penalty goals in the 20th and 34th minutes to one by Burleigh as both teams battled to come to terms with the conditions.

Auckland showed good unity on the drive and it almost bore fruit when it opted for a penalty close to the line and in the resulting play prop Charlie Faumuina went over the line, only to have referee Josh Noonan call Braid for obstruction ahead of Faumuina.

Bay of Plenty spent the third quarter camped in its own half as Auckland mounted charge after charge and in the 57th minute a well-placed kick by replacement first five-eighths Ash Moeke looked to provide another chance for a try.

Wing Dave Thomas made a nice break and then found prop Tevita Mailau charging back on the angle and he crossed the line but home fullback Toby Arnold managed to slip his arm between the ball and the ground and the TMO ruled Mailau had been held up in-goal.

Inevitably, after absorbing so much pressure, the Bay broke out and put the pressure on Auckland for a change.

It was Bay of Plenty's turn to feel frustration of a lost chance when lock Culum Retallick charged over beneath the posts but most of the Auckland pack was underneath him. Auckland conceded a free-kick at the scrum and No.8 Colin Bourke took a quick tap but Auckland recovered and cleared its line.

Successive penalties then took Auckland back into the Bay of Plenty half.

The last 15 minutes saw Bay of Plenty throw everything at Auckland but it never provided the clear cut openings that would have fully tested the visitors. Auckland looked the sharper unit when it managed to create opportunities.


Bay of Plenty 6 (Phil Burleigh 2 pen) Auckland 11 (Atieli Pakalani try; Matt Berquist 2 pen).HT: 6-11