Auckland sent out Joe Rokocoko on a high note in his last game at Eden Park on Saturday, defeating Bay of Plenty 25-16.
Auckland sent out Joe Rokocoko on a high note in his last game at Eden Park, defeating Bay of Plenty 25-16 in their ITM Cup clash on Saturday.
The hosts outscored Bay of Plenty by three tries to one to keep their faint hopes of making the final intact.
Rokocoko looked intent to involve himself at every opportunity in his final match on Eden Park before he heads overseas to join French club Bayonne, and he played a significant role in Auckland's first try after just five minutes.
He featured twice in the build-up before Hadleigh Parkes picked up the ball from the base of the ruck and barged his way over the line to score.
While Rokocoko was bidding au revoir to the Auckland and Blues faithful, promising youngster Dave Thomas announced his return to action after a long term injury with an outstanding game, injecting himself well from full-back.
With Winston Stanley partnering Hadleigh Parkes in the midfield and Gareth Anscombe back guiding the ship at pivot, Auckland looked dangerous on attack but they failed to cash in on their regular visits to the Bay of Plenty red zone, squandering numerous opportunities.
Anscombe uncharacteristically missed his first two penalty attempts before landing his third to give Auckland a 10-3 lead at the half hour mark.
Blues flanker Luke Braid was back at Eden Park but this time wearing the blue and yellow hoops of the Steamers, and the crowd that would usually have been cheering his name during the Super Rugby season were quietly cursing him when he scored with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
The visitors were awarded a penalty from a 5m attacking scrum and captain Colin Bourke tapped the ball quickly and passed to Braid who caught the Auckland defence napping to stroll over for the try.
Fly-half Chris Noakes edged Bay of Plenty ahead with a penalty kick before halftime, but Anscombe replied early in the second stanza to once again level the scores.
However the response was swift by the Bay of Plenty as Noakes once again nudged his side ahead with a long distance penalty kick.
The turning point came soon afterwards as Auckland scored two tries in the space of five minutes to secure the victory.
Replacement lock Steven Luatua did an outstanding job of bashing his way through four Bay of Plenty defenders to the tryline, before George Moala left speedster Lelia Masaga in his wake, getting on his outside and setting up Dave Thomas for the try.
Tries: Parkes, Luatua, Thomas
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Anscombe 2
For Bay of Plenty:
Pens: Noakes 3
Auckland: 15 Dave Thomas, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 George Moala, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Sean Polwart , 6 Nathan Hughes, 5Chris Lowrey, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney (c), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Steve Luatua, 19 Sam Henwood, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Piers Francis, 22 Brent Ward, 23 Tevita Mailau.
Bay of Plenty: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Steve Kefu/Hona, 11 Jason Hona/Ben W Smith, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Jamie Nutbrown, 8 Colin Bourke (c), 7 Luke Braid,6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Culum Retallick/Luke Andrews, 4 Leon Power, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 John Pareanga, 1 Tristan Moran.
Replacements: 16 Daniel Perrin, 17 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 18 Andrews/Leighton Price, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Josh Hall, 21 Daniel Waenga/Nick McCashin, 22 Smith/Lance MacDonald, 23. Josh Hohneck.