Auckland bounced back from last week's defeat at Tasman to record a 27-13 win over Southland in the ANZ Cup on Saturday.
Southland had won only once at Auckland in 124 years, but fancied their chances against the stuttering giants this year, who have been struggling with problems on and off the field.
But Southland's team looked tired as the season grows long, and Auckland's fresher players reaped the benefits.
It was Auckland scrum-half Taniela Moa who did the most damage, sniping round a maul to score in the corner just before half-time, then capitalising on a break by Jerome Kaino two minutes after half-time to make it 22-13 with his second try.
That was some relief to Auckland, who had trailed up until then despite playing the better rugby. Southland flanker John Hardie had grabbed his side's - and the game's - only try with a storming run through two tackles, and Robbie Robinson's conversion, added to two penalty goals, gave his side the edge over the four penalties from Ash Moeke at 13-12 heading up to the break.
But it was an error-ridden first half, utterly lacking in fluency, with Southland particularly culpable of letting chances go to ground and also for sloppy penalties being given away at rucks and mauls.
You felt they might correct their problems in the second half, but once the Moa show had given Auckland the lead, there was little chance of the upset coming.
Eventually it was the hard-working flanker Onosai'i Auva'a who made the game's decisive break, which allowed Peter Saili to hare away and score near the end, but the game petered out with little chance of a fightback coming and little sig of the desire for a bonus point for Auckland.
Tries: Moa 2, Saili
Pens: Moeke 4
Pens: Robinson 2
Auckland: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Chay Raui, 10 Ash Moeke, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Onosa'i Auva'a, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Andrew Van der Heijden, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Jay Williams, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Gareth Arlidge, 22 Teddy Stanaway.
Southland: 15 Glen Horton, 14 Matt Saunders, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Jason Kawau, 11 Pehi Te Whare, 10 Robbie Robinson, 9 Scott Cowan, 8 David Hall, 7 Tim Boys, 6 John Hardie, 5 Joe Tuineau, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements:16 Fai Mika, 17 Dave Gannon, 18 Hua Tamariki, 19 Noa Soqeta, 20 Sonny Rangitoheriri, 21 Tony Koonwaiyou, 22 James Wilson