Auckland wing Atieli Pakalani scored a vital try in a tight game to help his team to a 27-13 win over Taranaki 27-13 at Eden Park on Sunday.
Auckland wing Atieli Pakalani scored a vital try in a hard-fought game to help his team to a 27-13 win over Taranaki 27-13 at Eden Park on Sunday.
Winston Stanley also touched down scored for the home side while Matt Berquist kicked seventeen points with five penalties and a conversion to hand Auckland a much-needed win after a lacklustre start to the season.
The result also brings to an end Taranaki's winning streak that started four games ago while it extends their win-less record against Auckland to six matches.
A less-than-brilliant first half finished with Auckland leading 6-3 before a try for either side sparked some excitement into the game in the second period.
Two early penalties from Berquist gave the hosts a 6-0 lead, but it could have been a lot more but for a great effort from Taranaki scrum-half Tyson Keats, who stripped Auckland flanker Peter Saili of the ball while he was diving over the tryline.
After a poor start, Taranaki stepped up their game and were rewarded when Willie Ripia slotted a 50m penalty to put them on the board.
Taranaki lost the services of wing David Smith in the 30th minute when he was knocked out in a high tackle from Saili, who was sent to the bin.
The game took on a new complexion after the break when Pakalani, who had been one of the stand-out players of the day benefited from a loose pass by Kurt Baker in the 42nd minute when the Taranaki full-back found himself isolated. Auckland scrum-half Toby Morland toed the ball ahead and Pakalani used his pace to win the race to the ball.
Taranaki kept themselves in the game however when replacement loose forward Samuela Vunisa scored after Keats took a tap penalty having moments earlier instigated a breakout from his own territory.
Like his team-mate earlier Stanley, an early second half replacement, made the most of some good fortune in the 63rd minute after he kicked ahead before the ball sat up for him and he had just enough speed to hold off Baker.
Berquist's accuracy with the boot proved to be vital as his six successful kicks from eight attempts contrasted with Ripia's three-from-six return.
Tries: Pakalani, Stanley
Pens: Berquist 5
Pens: Ripia 2
Yellow card: Saili (Auckland – 30th min – high tackle)
Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Ben Atiga,12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Bryce Heem, 10 Matt Berquist, 9 Toby Morland, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid (c), 6 Peter Saili, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Kurtis Haiu, 19 Adam Kleeberger, 20 Brenton Helleur, 21 Gareth Anscombe, 22 Winston Stanley.
Taranaki: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Andre Taylor, 13 George Pisi,12 Jayden Hayward, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Ben Souness, 7 Chris Walker, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Craig Clarke (c), 4 James Broadhurst, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Timo Tutavaha, 1 Carl Carmichael.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Shane Cleaver, 18 Kane Barrett, 19 Samuela Vunisa, 20 Brett Goodin, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Isaia Tuifua.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence