Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Anscombe boots Ranfurly Shield holders out of town

Auckland winger Ben Lam tries to break through Taranaki's Seta Tamanivalu and Jayden Hayward. Photo / Getty Images
Auckland winger Ben Lam tries to break through Taranaki's Seta Tamanivalu and Jayden Hayward. Photo / Getty Images

Defending the Ranfurly Shield is one thing, beating Auckland is another.

Certainly inside a week as Taranaki found last night when they ran into a determined ITM Cup host and the masterboot of Gareth Anscombe.

Taranaki claimed several tries to rank with the best in the match starting when they rolled through a multitude of phases after fullback Kurt Baker started a counter attack inside his 22 before Jason Eaton plonked a long arm towards the tryline and received a positive verdict from the television match official.

Auckland's rival for the best try award came much later when blindsider Steven Luatua completed another superb sweeping move as he held his nerve to punish an outnumbered defence line.

Anscombe completed the sideline conversion and was subbed off soon after with 20 points in a faultless goalkicking performance.

Other parts of his play are not so crisp and there is speculation he is not favoured by the Blues next season, however at this level, Anscombe's boot is a powerful weapon.

Victory for Auckland will have restored some of the self-belief which was shredded in their last outing by Bay of Plenty.

The hosts lost left wing George Moala in the opening minutes with a leg injury as he lunged towards the line but fullback Charles Piutau barrelled over in the same place soon after.

Auckland continued to dominate most of the opening quarter but an Anscombe penalty was their only profit while Eaton finished Taranaki's one spectacular assault.

Eventually it took an instinctive piece of work from Alby Mathewson to stretch Auckland's lead when he scooted 25m to the line.

When Taranaki slipped on some senior subs like Scott Waldrom, they ramped up some response and Eaton plunged across for his second try as Auckland were sucked into close quarter defence without protecting the flanks.

A late game sting from Luatua then impressive replacement Nathan Hughes helped edge Auckland out to a huge lead. They needed it as Taranaki rattled home with three tries.

Auckland 43 (Charles Piutau, Alby Mathewson, Steven Luatua, Nathan Hughes, tries: Gareth Anscombe 4 con, 4 pen, Simon Hickey pen)

Taranaki 32 (Jason Eaton 2, Jack Cameron, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jackson Ormond tries; Jack Cameron pen, 2 con). HT: 17-8

- NZ Herald

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