You might have expected a wet Thursday at Eden Park to yield only dour rugby and a dearth of tries.
You would have been badly wrong. Auckland and the Tasman Makos fought out an eight-try Premiership joust in which the Makos took the honours and deservedly won at this venue for the first time in their decade-long history. Both sides scored four tries apiece but Tasman's staunch defence and forward dominance stood out, along with that man Marty Banks. He kicked 10 from 10 for 26 points.
"Great scrum, good depth, great 23-man effort from them," said Auckland's best forward, No 8 Steven Luatua. "Tactically, they were outstanding. They kicked it long, and counter-rucked well."
Auckland hang onto second place by the skin of their teeth, despite their third home loss in four home games, while Tasman, with a game in hand, move up into third equal position on the Premiership table. The playoffs race is on and Auckland may well need to beat Taranaki next week just to secure their semifinals berth, which looked safe after their 54-17 hiding of Otago.
The Makos pack gave the home side some serious trouble and poured cold water on blazer game celebrations for Rieko Ioane and Tom McHugh. Neither of the Ioane brothers could get their hands on the ball enough to give their side any momentum.
Auckland, who had started so well, for once, against Otago, were back to their old tricks of switching off for long patches. Tasman dominated from the get-go, No 8 Pete Samu running a direct line to take the early lead. Thereafter they bossed the set-piece and breakdown.
Auckland wing Pryor Collier did finish a scorcher of a try which went through several pairs of hands, and Lolagi Visinia, on the other wing, helped himself to a double. But Auckland could never exert consistent pressure on the visitors, who benefitted from the return of flanker Shane Christie and prop Kane Hames and a defensive line that was rather more stable than that of Otago. David Havili landed a 60m penalty goal bomb.
"It's good to know now. I didn't know Havili had a 60m kick in him. I thought he had bitten off too much. Marty also directed the game well for them, exiting well," said Luatua.
Auckland's last regular season game is next Thursday away to Taranaki. Tasman are at North Harbour next Wednesday for a possible Ranfurly Shield challenge.
Tasman 49 (Peter Samu, Tim Perry, David Havili, Quinten Strange tries; Marty Banks 4 con, 6 pen, Havili pen) Auckland 31 (Lolagi Visinia 2, Scott Scrafton, Pryor Collier tries; Simon Hickey 4 con, pen) HT: 24-23 Auckland