Rugby: Auckland secure crucial bonus point

Isaia Toeava of Auckland makes a break. Photo / Getty Images
Isaia Toeava of Auckland makes a break. Photo / Getty Images

Auckland continued 34 years of Otago misery at Eden Park with a convincing 39-11 win over the southerners in their ITM Cup match at Auckland today.

More fancied Otago sides have ventured to the big smoke with high hopes of victory but the current team is languishing in last place on the standings and were never really in today's contest as Auckland kept hopes of a home semifinal well and truly alive with a good win in slippery conditions, though there were plenty of mistakes in the second half.

Auckland scored three first half tries and added another two in the second half to claim a bonus-point win, which sees them move up to third with 40 points, five behind leaders Canterbury.

Otago, who have not won at Eden Park since 1976, suffered their fifth successive loss but they can at least salvage the smallest of consolations from their horror season -- a win against Manawatu in Dunedin next weekend would see them move off the bottom of the table, consigning Manawatu to that position.

The conditions were not conducive for running rugby but Auckland made the most of their opportunities in the first half.

The teams traded early penalties before Auckland halfback Toby Morland, a former Otago player, darted down a short left-wing blindside for the first try of the match.

Otago replied almost immediately with what was a rare foray into Auckland's 22m zone, prop Halani Aulika barrelling over after a pick and go move from 5m out to close the gap to 8-10.

That was as close as the visitors got, however, as Auckland centre Isaia Toeava waltzed through a yawning gap in midfield to score, and first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe, son of Auckland coach Mark Anscombe, toed through a loose ball to dot down.

Ahead 24-11 at halftime, the home team sealed a crucial bonus point with the try of the match early in the second half.

Anscombe, who had a top game directing play, made the initial bust and the five passes later replacement hooker Tom McCartney scored after some good handling from the forwards.

The match lost shape but wing Joe Rokocoko put the icing on the cake for Auckland, chasing a kick and sliding over to score in the 80th minute.

- NZPA

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