There’s a new leader atop the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership ladder after Auckland trounced Tasman at Eden Park this afternoon.
On the day before the All Blacks grace the same turf, Tasman had several national players to call on, including Tyrel Lomax and Sevu Reece, who had been released by the All Blacks to play one final provincial clash before they head to Australia for the Rugby Championship.
However, it was Auckland whose class shone through, in a surprisingly convincing 31-10 victory, which doubled as a small dose of revenge for their last meeting, which saw Tasman dump Auckland out of the semifinals in 2019.
They never looked like claiming victory yesterday though, with Auckland putting the game out of reach by halftime with four tries to take a 24-0 lead.
This was quickly extended to 31-0 after the break when Salesi Rayasi was on the end of a cross-field bomb.
Tasman crossed twice in the last 15 minutes but it was to no avail, with Auckland taking five points to move four points clear atop the Premiership standings.
Tasman will be bumped back to third after the clash between Canterbury and Waikato tomorrow afternoon in Christchurch.
Wellington have also positioned themselves nicely in the Premiership race, picking up their third win of the season with a 25-20 victory over North Harbour in the capital.
North Harbour were the better team for stretches of the contest, leading 13-0 after 30 minutes but two excellent tries, including a long-range effort against the run of play finished off by Billy Proctor, brought Wellington back within one at the break.
A Tomas Aoake try gave North Harbour a buffer but Wellington kept things ticking over with penalties from Jackson Garden-Bachop and then Aoake went from hero to villain as he spilled a kick through, allowing Julian Savea to pounce and score the match-winning try for the Lions.
North Harbour drop back to sixth on the ladder, on 12 points, the same as Bay of Plenty, who came out on top in a tryfest against Manawatū in Palmerston North, 53-35.
Bay of Plenty had a bonus point sealed by halftime as they ran in five tries but also conceded three to make it 38-21 at the break.
The teams added a further two tries apiece in the second half to rack up the highest scoring match in the competition this year.
The defeat sees Manawatu remain winless through six games and stuck at the bottom of the Championship ladder ahead of their Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke’s Bay next weekend in Napier.
Taranaki moved into fourth in the Championship after grinding out a 17-9 win over Southland.
The Stags, who have scored just 73 points in six games yet have conceded only 82, made the game a grinding affair as usual in Invercargill but failed to score a try and Taranaki’s 58th-minute strike to Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens was just enough to seal a handy victory.