Manawatu proved the perfect opposition for Auckland to re-gain their confidence in the ITM Cup today.
Following a comprehensive mid-week defeat at the hands of Canterbury in Christchurch, and letting it slip in the second half of their win over Hawkes Bay in round one, Auckland quickly found their mojo thanks to a leaky Turbos defence at Eden Park.
Auckland, playing with a big wind at their backs, virtually had it won in the first half in scoring four converted tries, the final one after the hooter through flanker Nepia Fox-Matamua.
Fox-Matamua, on debut, was thrown under the posts by prop Pauliasi Manu, but the first three were scored through the wide channel where Manawatu's defence was weakest.
In the first half, wing George Moala, fullback Charles Piutau and second-five Hadleigh Parkes were all beneficiaries of ordinary defence from the championship team. Things didn't improve drastically after the break either, with Gareth Anscombe breaking through, Piutau scoring another two, and Moala securing his brace as the Auks scored four more.
For Manawatu it's two losses on the trot and tackling practice is likely to loom large during training in the next few days.
Auckland were more effective at the power game than they were against Canterbury. In that match they were constantly driven back _ in most part because they were running too high _ but today Manu and his tight forwards found the going much easier, despite the presence in the Manawatu pack of Super Rugby players Michael Fitzgerald and Nick Crosswell.
Manawatu breached the Auckland line only once _ Tomasi Cama jinking expertly upfield and releasing flanker Callum Gibbons for an excellent converted try.
In first-five Cama and centre Aseali Tikoirotuma, Manawatu have a couple of talented backs, but unfortunately for them their threat was quickly nullified.
Anscombe picked up where Auckland left off after the re-start when running in from 50m following a Steven Luatau break. The first-five had a very good all-round game, kicking seven from seven and often asking questions of the Manawatu defence or using the wind to his advantage when kicking for territory.
Auckland are likely to face a bigger challenge next Saturday when they take on Waikato at Eden Park. Manawatu face Northland in Whangarei on Wednesday.
Auckland 59 (Charles Piutau 3, George Moala 2, Hadleigh Parkes, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Gareth Anscombe tries; Anscombe 6 cons, pen, Simon Hickey 2 cons).
Manawatu 16 (Callum Gibbons try; Craig Clare con, 3 pens).