Taranaki power past Auckland
BANG. That was Taranaki hammering the final nail home on the Auckland coffin for the 2017 provincial rugby season.
With an outstanding second half display at Eden Park, Colin Cooper’s Taranaki side cruised clear of an improved, but still error-prone, Auckland outfit 49-38, six tries to five, to pretty much end the faint semifinal hopes for Nick White’s men.
With just a single win and now four defeats from their first five matches, Auckland occupy the second from bottom rung on the Premiership standings with just six points. It is too steep a road home from here.
In contrast Taranaki, with their third victory from four outings, improve to 16 points and remain well and truly in the thick of the top-four picture, behind the unbeaten Canterbury and North Harbour sides.
Cooper’s men looked in a little bit of trouble when they trailed 25-19 at halftime against an Auckland side that looked to have made some important improvements from their battle of the Bridge debacle last Sunday.
But they produced an outstanding first 26 minutes of the second half to run in three tries without reply in a 27-3 surge that saw them storm into a 46-28 lead.
From there it was just too big a hole for the Auks to climb out of, MITRE CUP even if two late Vince Aso tries, to bring up a hat-trick for the match, did rather flatter the home team on the final scoreboard.
Taranaki’s ability to turn errors and half-chances into points was the difference. They jumped all over their chances and, behind the strong kicking of Marty McKenzie (five conversions, two penalties), were able to put the required distance on their opponents in the second half.
Auckland were better than last Sunday, but still fell off badly when the errors started coming a little too frequently.
There were three tries apiece through an entertaining and freeflowing first half, though it was