A couple of rugby stars from yesteryear scored tries on return for Auckland as they stormed to 36-14 ITM Cup win over North Harbour today.
In wet, windy conditions at Albany, Auckland scored the last 36 points after a sluggish start to dominate the battle of the bridge and claim a 26th defeat of Harbour in 33 meetings.
They scored four tries to one, with two of them going to flanker Daniel Braid and fullback Brent Ward. The pair -- along with centre Ben Atiga -- made pre-season headlines by returning to their old province following playing stints overseas.
Braid and Ward - who were both impressive - scored either side of halftime to give the Aucklanders a handy advantage after they trailed 14-0 through the first half hour.
North Harbour were impressive in the opening exchanges due to superior discipline and more breakdown physicality.
However, those elements reversed as the game wore on and the Auckland scrum became dominant, with the 15-time champions able to snare a bonus point try in the 76th minute through reserve winger Dave Thomas.
Harbour didn't score again after second five-eighth Luke McAlister landed his third penalty in the 23rd minute. McAlister's first was a 63m boomer, followed by their only try to flanker Tom Chamberlain.
However, Chamberlain was a villain in the closing stages when sinbinned for repeat offences, neatly summarising the game's dramatic change of momentum.
Auckland's first points came through a try to winger Chay Raui off a neat Atiga grubber kick and Braid flopped over soon afterwards.
First five-eighth Ash Moeke landed penalties either side of halftime followed by Ward's try when put into space from a neat scrum move.
Replacement No 10 Matt Berquist was more accurate than the misfiring Moeke, landing two penalties and converting the Thomas try to extend the margin to 22 points and spoiling North Harbour's jubliee celebration, marking 25 years' existence as a province.
Auckland 36 (Chay Raui, Daniel Braid, Brent Ward, Dave Thomas tries; Ash Moeke 2 pen, con, Matt Berquist 2 pen, con) North Harbour 14 (Tom Chamberlain try; Luke McAlister 3 pen). Halftime: 15-14