Despite only managing a draw in Saturday's rugby encounter, Waikato can take a lot of positive vibes on defence from their penalty-ridden showing against the defending Mitre 10 Cup Premiers.

The consensus is that a draw was probably fair following an up and down night for Waikato, and sharing the points with Auckland keeps them in a decent position on the Premiership ladder, for now.

It might have been lucky that Auckland left the Stan Memorial Thomas trophy back home, because in the end, they held onto it and perhaps escaped a bit of embarrassment for such a poor oversight by their management in the process.

Maybe, too, they saved on the postage costs involved in sending the trophy back down the motorway.

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Dwayne Sweeney runs at the Auckland defenders. Photo / Lauran Robinson
Dwayne Sweeney runs at the Auckland defenders. Photo / Lauran Robinson

It just wasn't to be for Waikato, but it had been going so well for the young side back in front of their home fans and despite falling at the last hurdle, improvements are noticeable.

Waikato looks comfortable and can control possession and territory with leads, even slim leads.

A major problem is in the scrums. The forward pack again lost all direction and control to allow Auckland back into a game they were struggling to get any ascendancy in.

Penalties were frequent, and not for the first time this season. You can only defend for so long, and while the defensive showing from Waikato was mostly as solid as we've seen, Auckland eventually took their opportunities to come back and tie the game with a late try and penalty kick.

A 20-20 stalemate in the year of stalemates, an opportunity for Waikato to go second in the Premiership fell by the wayside. Yet, much of the game seemed to deliver a positive outcome.

While some of referee Richard Kelly's many penalties seemed a little harsh, Waikato simply isn't helping themselves in this area and it's been a consistent issue during the opening month of Mitre 10 Cup.

Waikato coach Andrew Strawbridge is aware of the issues with discipline and was disappointed that it let his side down again after putting particular emphasis on not conceding penalties back to back during the week.

"It's costing us a lot, we talked before the game about piggy backing penalties and it happened a few times so it is something we need to address,"Strawbridge said.

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Nine penalties in the first half alone is bad enough, but it continued through the match and was a direct result of all the points Auckland would score on the night.

In other words, the points Auckland accumulated weren't by dominance.

"It's about keeping in the moment and being able to put those scrummaging efforts together without letting it creep into our defensive actions," Strawbridge said.

Waikato go on an attack as the local crowd watches on. Photo / Lauran Robinson
Waikato go on an attack as the local crowd watches on. Photo / Lauran Robinson

Waikato didn't deserve to win the match, but despite the draw, positives aplenty can be taken.

Apart from the calamity at scrum time and the driving maul woes, Waikato's defensive structure looks noticeably better compared to earlier rounds. The same holes aren't appearing and composure is being kept in broken play.

It's not quite as doom and gloom as the issues at scrum time would suggest.

Waikato is competitive and if they can address their disciple, matching Mitre 10 Cup's best won't be an issue.

Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in Hamilton and covers rugby, cricket and social issues.