Auckland signalled their semi-final intentions as they romped to a 37-13 victory over Counties Manukau at Growers Stadium in Pukekohe.
Auckland signalled their semi-final intentions as they romped to a 37-13 victory over Counties Manukau at Growers Stadium in Pukekohe on Saturday.
After a lethargic first half which saw them trailing 6-13 at half time, five second-half tries, including a brace each from Daniel Braid and Joe Rokocoko saw Auckland coast home.
Auckland and Manukau exchanged early penalties through the boots of Gareth Anscombe and Dean Cummins respectively.
Anscombe added another penalty in the 18th minute to put his side in front 6-3.
But it was the home side who struck the first real blow as Cummins broke the line to dot down under the uprights in the 24th minute after a good period of pressure.
Cummins then added another penalty to give Manukau a deserved 13-6 lead heading into the interval.
After a lacklustre first-half showing, Auckland coach Mark Anscombe opted to bring returning All Black centre Toeava into the fray, and he made all the difference as the visitors dominated the second period.
Seven minutes after the break Auckland worked the ball well from a line-out and swung it out wide to Dave Thomas who sent Braid through for his first try of the evening. Anscombe's conversion levelled the scores at 13-13.
A few minutes later Toeava then put Rokocoko into a gap and the flyer went over uncontested to put his side into the lead.
The 'Iceman' then produced another bit of magic as he gathered from his own kick and from a resulting ruck, Braid was able to go over for his second to give Auckland some breathing space.
With under 10 minutes to play, Rokocoko put the result beyond doubt as he twisted out of a tackle to score before flanker Jerome Kaino rubbed salt into Manukau's wounds with another try just before full-time to send a clear warning to Auckland's semi-final rivals.
Pens: Cummins 2
Tries: Braid 2, Rockocoko 2, Kaino
Con: Anscombe 2, Berquist
Pen: Anscombe 2
Counties-Manukau: 15 Tim Nanai Williams, 14 Ahsee Tuala, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 David Raikuna, 10 Dean Cummins, 9 Samisoni Fisilau, 8 Viliami Fihaki, 7 Mark Selwyn, 6 Ronald Raaymakers, 5 Jamie Chipman, 4 Taiasina Tuifua, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Grant Henson, 1 Simon Lemalu.
Replacements: 16 Ilaisa Maasi, 17 Graham Dewes, 18 Sikeli Nabou, 19 Pepa Koloamatangi, 20 August Pulu, 21 Rey Lee-Lo, 22 Seremaia Tagicakibau.
Auckland: 15 Chay Raui, 14 Dave Thomas, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Brenton Helleur, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Jerome Kaino, 6 Daniel Braid, 5 Andrew van der Heijden, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Tom McCartney.
Replacements: 16 Tevita Mailau, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Isaia Toeava.
Referee: Keith Brown