Auckland 24 Otago 19
Auckland and Otago have put on some classic battles over the years.
Tonight's clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium was not one of those - there were too many errors and dropped balls for that.
But at least it was entertaining, with Auckland running out the winner 24-19, after leading 14-13 at the break.
It was a smash and bash type of game - defence was brutal and both teams looked like they had gone through the ringer at the end such was the commitment shown at the breakdown.
But Auckland came out on top, mainly thanks to its ability to win ball at vital times.
The win for Auckland was good enough to put it back to the top of the premiership table but it failed to secure a home semifinal. Otago is in the semifinals but wil have to travel if Tasman beats North Harbour.
The match was decided with 10 minutes to go with a combinations of two intercepts, and the speed of Charles Piutau.
Otago broke from its own line and flanker Adam Hill skipped free. But his pass to prop aki Seiuli went to Piutau about 50m out.
He sped away from the tired Otago defence and with Gareth Anscombe's conversion the visiting team went eight points clear.
Otago tried to get back in the final minutes but playing its fourth game in 13 days it could not reply.
The match, as is becoming the norm in the covered stadium, was all over the field, and both teams had excellent scrambling defence.
Otago went down to 14 men just after the 50th minute when replacement flanker Hugh Blake was harshly yellow carded for entering a ruck illegally.
Auckland tried to profit but it lost a man itself when replacement lock Liaki Moli was ruled to have used no shoulders in a tackle.
The recipient of the that hit, Otago first five-eighth Hayden Parker managed to get up and kick the resulting penalty.
Best for the Otago side was halfback Fumiaki Tanaka while flanker TJ Ioane went hard all night.
Anscombe had a tidy game and was unlucky to have a try ruled out early in the second half after he was ruled to have shaved the touchline in dotting down.
Piutau was classy while Daniel Braid continued to get into his work.
Auckland had its first try of the game just after 10 minutes.
It seized on a turnover and winger Ben Lam got in behind the Otago defence.
The visitors then swung the ball to the left and had huge numbers although prop Pauliasi Manu almost blew the try by cutting back in.
The ball eventually though went to winger Dave Thomas who dived over in the corner.
Otago though did not want a repeat of last Saturday night against Wellington and came back into the game with a try by hooker Sam Anderson-Heather after some nice handling through backs and forwards.
Parker added the extras to put Otago in the lead after a quarter of the game.
But Anscombe replied with a couple of penalties to give Auckland a narrow lead at the break.
Auckland 24 (Dave Thomas, Charles Piutau tries, Gareth Anscombe con, 4
Otago 19 (Sam Anderson-Heather try, Hayden Parker con, 3 pen, Glenn Dickson pen)
Halftime: 14-13 Auckland.
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- APNZBy Steve Hepburn