North Harbour's opening ITM Cup game ended in a home derby defeat as they went down 36-14 to Auckland in Albany on Sunday.
7,100 people braved the miserable weather for the match, a part of North Harbour's 25th jubilee celebrations, but the home side revealed a number of frailties, particularly in the second half.
Auckland had held a narrow 15-14 lead at the break, but quickly shot out to a 23-14 lead after North Harbour conceded a penalty, which was converted for three points, and then knocked a high ball on from the restart, creating a scrum from which Brent Ward scored.
With Harbour playing into the wind for the rest of the match, that was undoubtedly the turning point.
Using the wind in the first half, Luke McAlister had given North Harbour the lead with a penalty from 62m. His Auckland counterpart, Ash Moeke, missed his first shot from about half that distance.
Instead, Harbour extended the lead with a Tom Chamberlain try and two more McAlister penalties for a 14-0 lead.
However, a good period of continuity in which centre Ben Atiga, Morland and Faumuina combined resulted in a chance for Auckland to move the ball with effect. Atiga slipped a kick into the in-goal area and Raui had the speed to get the touchdown with Moeke adding the conversion from the sideline.
Auckland stormed back onto attack and with more continuity play North Harbour could do nothing but defend and eventually it was flanker Daniel Braid who went over on the back of another sweeping movement. Moeke wasn't able to convert to leave the score at 14-12, but he did convert the last kick of the half to put Auckland a point ahead.
Then came those Harbour errors which handed all the momentum to Auckland. In the last quarter, North Harbour plugged the leaks and went close to scoring when wing Fatafehi went close to scoring beneath Auckland's posts, but a penalty was conceded and Auckland cleared.
A tap penalty in the 72nd minute saw the ball moved wide with replacement number eight Chris Lowrey feeding replacement wing Dave Thomas in at the corner. Second-string first five-eighths Matt Berquist landed a superb sideline conversion.
For North Harbour:
Pen: McAlister 3
Tries: Raui, Braid, Ward, Thomas
Con: Moeke, Berquist
Pen: Moeke 3, Berquist
North Harbour: 15 Jack McPhee, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Brnedon Watt, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Alipate Fatafehi, 10 Michael Harris, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Richard Mayhew, 7 Scott Uren, 6 Tom Chamberlain, 5 Shane Neville, 4 Matt Luamanu, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 James Parsons, 1 Michael Reid (c).
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Taione Vea, 18 William Whetton, 19 Malakai Ravulo, 20 Nalu Tuigamala, 21 Ben Botica, 22 Jack Tarrant.
Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Atieli Pakalani, 13 Ben Atiga, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Chay Raui, 10 Ash Moeke, 9 Toby Morland, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Onosai'i Auva'a, 5 Andrew van der Heijden, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Chris Lowery, 20 Brenton Helleur, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Dave Thomas.