Auckland 10 Bay of Plenty 6
Auckland were forced to fight hard throughout before subduing Bay of Plenty to win their NPC first division rugby match 10-6 at Rotorua last night.
But the win, following on their first-round win over Southland, came at a cost, with former All Blacks wing Joeli Vidiri's season over after he broke his arm.
Halfback Steve Devine and fullback Mils Muliaina also suffered injuries in a physical encounter, with Devine helped from the field midway through the second spell with an ankle injury and Muliaina injuring his achilles tendon.
A try from former All Blacks midfield back Eroni Clarke in the second minute provided the game's highlight, with a greasy surface and light rain spoiling any chance of a spectacle.
From a 5m scrum near Bay of Plenty's line, Clarke charged on to a pop pass, broke two tackles before his strength carried him across the tryline.
First five-eighth Carlos Spencer kicked the simple conversion to give Auckland a 7-0 lead, but Bay of Plenty, victorious last week over reigning NPC champions Wellington 14-11, had their share of territory through the first half but couldn't break rock solid Auckland defence.
First five-eighth Glen Jackson missed two penalties before goaling in the 24th minute.
Spencer pulled one back for the visitors a minute later to give Auckland a 10-3 halftime lead.
Rather than kick on like they did against Southland, Auckland's game deteriorated in the second spell.
Jackson narrowed Auckland's lead to four points in the 13th minute but they couldn't break their opponents' outstanding defence out wide, led by Clarke, with Ilisea Tanivula also keeping dangerous Bay of Plenty wing Sam Hala in check.
Bay of Plenty had their chance to win the match in the final five minutes, forcing a scrum and lineout 5m from Auckland's line after a succession of penalties from referee Gary Wise.
But they couldn't get across the tryline from either, kicking away possession at crucial times, and had to settle for a bonus point for finishing within seven points.
Auckland 10 (E Clarke try, C Spencer con, pen).
Bay of Plenty 6 (G Jackson 2 pen).