Cru­cial win sees Aucks step to­wards safety net

Sunday News - - RUGBY - MARVIN FRANCE

AUCK­LAND have taken a big step to­wards avoid­ing rel­e­ga­tion, climb­ing off the bot­tom of the Premier­ship ta­ble with a dom­i­nant dis­play over Bay of Plenty.

Auck­land ran in four tries to se­cure a cru­cial 38-19 bonus-point vic­tory yes­ter­day at Eden Park, mov­ing to 17 points on the ta­ble to leapfrog Coun­ties-Manukau and Waikato in the stand­ings with two games re­main­ing.

Mak­ing his first start of the sea­son, New Zealand sevens flyer Joe Ravou­vou bagged a dou­ble in the open­ing 10 min­utes with Vince Aso and Me­lani Nanai adding tries in the sec­ond half.

But the win, only their third of the sea­son, was built on a tremen­dous de­fen­sive dis­play in the first half as Bay of Plenty en­joyed 78 per­cent ter­ri­tory, end­ing a dif­fi­cult week on a pos­i­tive note after coach Nick White an­nounced he would be step­ping down at the end of the sea­son.

Bay of Plenty ar­rived in Auck­land know­ing a win could have lifted them as high as sec­ond in the Cham­pi­onship. De­spite mak­ing more than 50 less tack­les than their op­po­si­tion, they strug­gled to cap­i­talise on their op­por­tu­ni­ties un­til it was far too late and re­main out­side the top four.

White had All Blacks coach­ing great Sir Gra­ham Henry on hand at train­ing this week and his magic clearly rubbed off on the play­ers as they came out fir­ing.

Al­though, it cer­tainly helps when Ravou­vou turned up in the mood he did. After Jono Hickey MITRE 10 CUP opened the scor­ing with a penalty, the big Fi­jian bagged a brace in five min­utes as he cut the Bay of Plenty de­fence to shreds.

The first try, a length of the field ef­fort where he beat two de­fend­ers to score next to the posts, was set up by a strong charge from loose for­ward Taleni Seu be­fore a su­perb off­load from Me­lani Nanai put him away for the sec­ond.

Lead­ing 17-0, Auck­land of­fered the Steam­ers a way back into the con­test when prop Mar­cel Re­nata was sent to the sin bin for re­peated in­fringe­ments mid­way through the first half.

But the home team showed great re­silience on their try­line to re­pel the vis­i­tors. Auck­land ac­tu­ally outscored the vis­i­tors 3-0 while Re­nata was off the field.

They were lucky not to have another player sent to the bin – and con­cede a penalty try – when half­back Richard Judd had the ball knocked out of his hands at a ruck on Auck­land’s line.

The Steam­ers had more rea­son to con­sider them­selves un­lucky when Judd had a try over­turned by the TMO for a knock-on.

But credit had to go to Auck­land’s de­fence, which never stopped turn­ing up as the hosts led 23-0 at half­time.

If Bay of Plenty were go­ing to pull off an un­likely come­back they had to score first after the break. But when it’s not your day, it’s not your day. Just three min­utes in, they were on the re­ceiv­ing end of another ques­tion­able call as Vince Aso crossed off what ap­peared to be a clear for­ward pass from Seu.

The missed call over­shad­owed what was a bril­liant run from Seu, who ter­rorised Bay of Plenty all day and was among Auck­land’s best.

Aso then turned provider as he burst through mid­field to set up Nanai for the bonus-point try.

The de­fence even­tu­ally broke in the 66th minute when Henry Stow­ers barged over and Auck­land would have been dis­ap­pointed to con­cede two more late tries.

Bay of Plenty’s Mike De­lany is scragged by the Auck­land de­fence at Eden Park yes­ter­day.

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