Rugby: Auckland overpower Taranaki

George Pisi of Taranaki tackles Ben Atiga of Auckland. Photo / Getty Images
George Pisi of Taranaki tackles Ben Atiga of Auckland. Photo / Getty Images

First five-eighth Matt Berquist played an influential role as Auckland revived their faltering ITM Cup campaign by beating Taranaki 27-13 in Auckland today.

Coming off a heavy loss to Canterbury, Auckland registered their fourth victory in six outings after Berquist landed six of eight goalkicking attempts for a personal haul of 17 points at Eden Park.

His efforts were complemented by two tries which Auckland virtually conjured out of nothing after scratching about for 40 minutes to lead 6-3 at halftime at Eden Park.

They extended their unbeaten run against Taranaki to six matches after young outside backs Atieli Pakalani and Winston Stanley breached the visitors' defences after receiving favourable bounces of the ball.

Impressive wing Pakalani benefited from a loose pass by Kurt Baker in the 42nd minute when the Taranaki fullback found himself isolated. Auckland halfback Toby Morland toed the ball ahead and Pakalani used his pace to win the race to the ball.

Likewise, 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.

Sandwiched between these two efforts, Taranaki, at one stage 3-14 down, had kept themselves in the contest when replacement loose forward Samuela Vunisa scored a try after halfback Tyson Keats took a tap penalty having moments earlier instigated a breakout from his own territory.

Berquist's accuracy with the boot contrasted with a three from six return from his Taranaki opposite Willie Ripia.

The first half was a messy, skittery affair as both teams targeted the breakdown area where neither exhibited control.

Auckland were on top in the early exchanges but had only two penalties from Berquist to show for their efforts after flanker Peter Saili was denied a try in just the second minute when Keats knocked the ball from his grasp just as he was diving for the line.

Taranaki lost the services of wing David Smith in the 30th minute when he was knocked out in a high tackle from Saili, the Aucklander being sinbinned for his transgression.

Auckland 27 (Atieli Pakalani, Winston Stanley tries; Matt Berquist 5 pen, con) Taranaki 13 (Samuela Vunisa try; Willie Ripia 2 pen, con). Halftime: 6-3.

- NZPA

- NZ Herald

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