There was plenty of early huff and puff from Auckland, but then they cranked on the afterburners to blow away the Stags in Invercargill.
Bolstered by three All Blacks in the pack, one might have thought Premiership Auckland would have had too much class from kickoff for the Championship Stags. But the experimental rules are a leveller at the breakdown and Auckland surprisingly could not get a dominant scrum going. They did, however, have the accurate boot of captain Simon Hickey and the explosive talent of the Ioanes. Rieko Ioane pouched a double, an intercept try just into the second spell from a wide pass from first five Lima Sopoaga, and a second late in the piece. He looked the most likely of a backline lacking fluency. Auckland look like they are missing the thrust of George Moala in midfield, though Vince Aso is not playing badly.
The defeat leaves Southland 0-3 in the Championship and raises question marks about how they will pressure sides when they have the ball but are without Sopoaga, who formed a useful 9-10 combination with the evergreen and confrontational Jimmy Cowan, who darted over for a try. Sopoaga had some nice touches, but was binned for lying on the ball. Centre Kieran Moffat was also yellow carded, reducing the Stags to 13 for a time.
Southland tackled with their usual vigour, but they faced a mountain of Auckland attacks which blunted their own offence. It was a shame for them that All Blacks loose forward Elliot Dixon could play no greater part than dispensing water.
No 8 Steven Luatua left the field with an ankle sprain, while Charlie Faumuina got through 40 minutes in his 50th match for the province. Joe Ravouvou crossed for his first try on the wing. Akira Ioane set up Pryor Collier for the bonus point try with an astonishing long run and slip pass, before Auckland added two more late tries to blow out the scoreline.
Auckland have a short turnaround, heading to Napier to face Hawke's Bay on Wednesday, while Southland are at Taranaki on Thursday.
Auckland 51 (Rieko Ioane 2, Joe Ravouvou, Patrick Tuipulotu, Pryor Collier, Kurt Eklund tries; Simon Hickey 5 con, 3 pen, Jono Hickey con) Southland 16 (Jimmy Cowan try, Jaye Thompson-Te Muunu con, Lima Sopoaga 3 pen) HT: 9-6