Auckland have announced their intentions early in the Mitre 10 Cup season, dispatching Otago 38-6 in their season opener in Dunedin.
But while the Auckland side put on an attacking clinic, it was overshadowed late by the ill-discipline of Otago, highlighted by Sio Tomkinson being sent off in the final minute.
Otago had already spent time in the second half with two men in the sin bin for repeated infringements deep inside their own territory, before Tomkinson, who has developed a reputation for reckless defence, was sent for an early shower for a reckless shoulder charge which connected with the head of Auckland reserve five-eighth Simon Hickey, who lay prone on the ground for a few moments before being able to get to his feet.
Otago gave away 20 penalties during the match, inviting the Auckland side to attack by giving them field position time after time. The visitors obliged, finding holes throughout the Otago defensive line – with loose forwards Akira Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu and fullback Jordan Trainor having significant success.
But while Otago were coughing up territory, Auckland coughed up just as much possession. Despite causing problems for the Otago defence throughout the contest, Auckland still turned the ball over more than 10 times, inviting pressure back onto themselves.
Otago had their chances throughout the game, though most came inside the opening 40 minutes. Otago went up 3-0, before Auckland took the lead through a Leni Apisai try from the back of a lineout drive.
It was the hooker's first of two tries, while Rieko Ioane and AJ Lam crossed the stripe as well, with a penalty try also awarded to Auckland.
While they have plenty areas to work on, it was a good start for the 2018 champions as they turn their attention to a wounded Wellington side next week.
Wellington were upended by a rampaging Waikato outfit earlier on Saturday. On the back of 33 points from fullback Damian McKenzie, Waikato claimed a 53-28 win in Hamilton.
McKenzie scored a try and kicked six penalties and five conversions to post one of the largest individual points totals seen in the competition.
Waikato outscored Wellington five tries to four, but it was McKenzie's boot – and Wellington's poor discipline – that proved the difference.
Waikato had similar success in the Farah Palmer Cup, thrashing Taranaki 76-14. Second five-eighth Chelsea Alley, winger Cheyelle Robins-Reti and hooker Grace Houpapa-Barrett each scored two of the team's 12 tries, with Taranaki only able to muster two of their own.
In today's other Farah Palmer Cup matches, Canterbury beat Manawatu 36-10 and Wellington hammered Tasman 62-0.
Auckland 38 (Leni Apisai 2, Penalty try, Rieko Ioane, AJ Lam tries; Harry Plummer 4 cons, pen) Otago 6 (Josh Ioane 2 pens). HT: 24-6.
Waikato 53 (Xavier Roe, Fletcher Smith, Adam Thomson, Damian McKenzie, Luke Jacobson tries; McKenzie 5 con, 6 pen) Wellington 28 (Julian Savea, Vaea Fifita, Connor Garden-Bachop, Ardie Savea tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 4 con). HT: 23-21.