Auckland's dominance grew, but so did the injury list, as they pounded Northland at Eden Park tonight.
The 41-10 win cemented Auckland's semifinal credentials in the ITM Cup premiership, but they paid a price. The departure of promising loose forward Joe Edwards with a smashed shoulder was among defections that will concern Auckland as they prepare to face Canterbury in eight days time.
Edwards was in considerable pain and left on a cart, breathing on an oxygen mask, midway through the second half. Replacement forward Patrick Tuipulotu was felled and departed with a jaw injury, after a shoulder hit from Bronson Murray. The hectic ITM Cup schedule is putting the pressure on many of the squads.
Auckland and the Blues are still producing their share of power runners and George Moala fits that mould - his early second half try was a man against the boys effort and he was a constant force in the game. Auckland settled the issue in the 62nd minute when first five-eighths Simon Hickey floated through a major hole from a lineout to score the bonus point try.
Championship side Northland were over matched in the wet conditions, but came up with a candidate for try of the year on the stroke of halftime. It started with a tackle steal deep in his half by Derek Carpenter, Northland spotted their chance, smart angles and passes ensued, and Mathew Wright scored. This put some life into a game that Auckland were threatening to run away with, but Northland couldn't sustain a charge. The Auckland scrum was too dominant and Northland wilted everywhere.
Auckland captain Hadleigh Parkes skipped through the defensive line for Auckland's first try, and teenage wing Vince Aso finished the second, after a storming Sean Polwart run and a fine last pass from Malakai Fekitoa.
These two tryscorers were to feature in a strange double injury blow. While on a kick and chase out of defence, both pulled hamstrings. Aso was immediately assisted from the field, and Parkes didn't last much longer.
It wasn't a great half of football, with the rain and slippery conditions encouraging what was often a scruffy kicking duel. Auckland stormed into life in the second half with a smart try. Moala, who moved from wing to centre in a rearranged backline, then strolled past Carpenter after the Auckland scrum had demolished the Northland pack again.
Auckland: H. Parkes, V. Aso, G. Moala, S. Hickey, L. Visinia, O. Tu'ungafasi tries; P. Weepu 4 con, pen
Northland: M. Wright try; D. Hawkins con, pen. HT: 14-7