Rugby: Auckland dominant at lineout time

By Campbell Burnes

Josh Goodhue of Northland competes at the lineout against Steven Luatua of Auckland. Photo / Photosport
Josh Goodhue of Northland competes at the lineout against Steven Luatua of Auckland. Photo / Photosport

Auckland have tidied up their defence and breakdown work, but it might just be at lineout time where they can apply the most pressure on opponents in 2016.

This follows last night's 37-15 Mitre 10 Cup crossover shutout of Northland at Eden Park in which they stole no less than eight Taniwha throws.

"It's probably one of our strengths. We didn't think we could get that many, but if we get 3-4 that's normally good. It puts a team under a lot of pressure if we can do that," says Auckland coach Nick White.

With Blake Gibson out injured, Auckland have not seen the need to use traditional fetchers, so ball-winning carriers such as Joe Edwards and Akira Ioane have played at No 7 in the first two rounds. With Taleni Seu at No 6 and Steven Luatua at No 8 plus their two locks, Auckland have five lineout options on their ball and clearly attempt to challenge on opposition ball. Even in their heavy defeat to Canterbury, they won a couple against the throw.

As a result, Northland, who tackled well for most of the night and had a comparable amount of possession, could get little going offensively.

On one of Auckland's windiest and woolliest evenings before a sparse crowd, the pack rolled their sleeves up and performed.

"We put a bit of heat on them just to get through their work. We wanted to go direct, especially on a night like that. Steven Luatua played well. He got the ball in his hands, took some good kickoffs and made his tackles. He can get better too," White says.

One of the standouts was hooker Kurt Eklund, who scored his second try for Auckland and is showing no ill-effects of last month's minor wrist surgery.

It was not flawless football, by any means, from Auckland. White felt there was too much kicking into the first half wind, though one bomb from captain Simon Hickey resulted in a try to wing Pryor Collier.

The one serious bum note, though, was the departure of Lolagi Visinia with a hamstring twinge. It did allow Joe Ravouvou to make his debut, but Auckland can ill afford too many injuries in their backline, which does not have the depth of the pack.

However, they should welcome back at least three fringe All Blacks - wing Rieko Ioane, prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi and lock Patrick Tuipulotu - for the Friday night crossover clash against Southland in Invercargill. Charlie Faumuina is less likely, but that call may be made after the wash-up from tonight's test.

Auckland is about to enter their 'storm week,' with games on Friday, Wednesday (Hawke's Bay) and Sunday (Waikato) so they will need as many hands on deck as possible.

- NZ Herald

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