Pakalani fires Auckland to win

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Sunday, September 5, 2010    Getty Images

It was just as well because the game appeared doomed to head to the same rubbish heap as the Northland game two weeks earlier.

However, after a lacklustre first half which saw Auckland lead 6-3, the try fired both teams to better efforts.

It was just reward for Pakalani who had looked the one player capable of building Auckland's effort with some fine kick-chase play, especially higher kicks ahead.

Taranaki was still in the game after 51 minutes when No.8 Ben Souness achieved a superb turnover at a breakdown in his own 22m area. The ball was delivered to halfback Tyson Keats and he was allowed to run and run down the blindside before putting a kick downfield.

Wing Andre Taylor chased hard and caught Pakalani just out from Auckland's line. A penalty was awarded and Keats took a quick tap and then fed replacement loose forward Samuela Vunisa in for the try.

After first five-eighths Willie Ripia added the conversion, he and his Auckland rival Matt Berquist, who kicked 17 points, exchanged penalty goals, before Auckland's replacement centre Winston Stanley produced a superb piece of individual action in the 63rd minute to seal the win for his side.

The ball was moved from the Auckland 22m area and Stanley kicked ahead and won a favourable bounce and then eluded Taylor to secure the try.

Errors continued during the half but there was much more finesse from both teams to produce a much more attractive contest.

Taranaki had made a hesitant start and was lucky not to concede a try to Auckland flanker Peter Saili when he latched onto a lobbed pass from No.8 Chris Lowrey. However, he lost the ball forward as he dived for the line courtesy of it being stripped by Taranaki halfback Tyson Keats.

But penalty goals to first five-eighths Matt Berquist in the fourth and eighth minutes partly compensated. At the same time they had the effect of lifting Taranaki who charged onto attack and almost scored after some clever work by wing David Smith.

Like Auckland, however, Taranaki had to settle for a penalty goal to secure its first points which Willie Ripia did at his second attempt, a superb goal from 50m.

Auckland 27 (Apieli Pakalani, Winston Stanley tries: Matt Berquist con, 5 pen) Taranaki 13 (Samuela Vunisa try; Willie Ripia con, 2 pen). HT: 6-3