Auckland have overcome three yellow cards to vault into second on the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership ladder.
A 28-13 victory over Counties Manukau was made harder than it should have been, with Akira Ioane (12th minute), Tumua Manu (45th) and Jonathan Ruru (64th) all spending time in the bin for assorted infringements.
It led to a disjointed display, and one which allowed Counties back into the match after they had been trailing 14-3 with 25 minutes to play.
Tries to Joe Royal and Sikeli Nabou gave Counties a chance to hit the front, but both conversions were missed, and Auckland first-five Harry Plummer took advantage with six minutes to go, spotting a gap from the base of the ruck and scooting between hesitant cover defenders to seal a victory that would have the cherry on top in terms of a bonus point when Salesi Rayasi crossed for their fourth and final try in the 79th minute.
The win moves Auckland above Canterbury into second in the Premiership, five points behind Tasman who play North Harbour tomorrow afternoon. Counties remain last, three points behind Harbour.
Also last, in the Championship, are Southland, who saw their best chance to snap their three-year losing streak vanish in the second half against Manawatu.
Leading 26-7 at the break, Southland imploded to sink to a 31-26 defeat — their 27th consecutive loss.
Having scored four first-half tries, it looked as if Southland would finally claim a win, but two quick tries after the break through unwanted All Black Ngani Laumape put Manawatu right back within striking distance.
A further try to Rhys Pedersen and conversion from Otere Black put Manawatu in front, and Black added a penalty before Manawatu hung on for a remarkably unconvincing victory.
Southland pick up two bonus points for their efforts — their first points of the season — but remain anchored to the bottom of the Championship ladder. Manawatu sit in fifth.
Bay of Plenty are second in the Championship after beating fourth-placed Taranaki 31-17.