ITM Cup: Auckland 27 - 20 North Harbour
Auckland impress after lightning start
August 18, 2013
Luke Braid and Tua Seseve each impressed at Eden Park
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Auckland were never behind on the scoreboard after claiming a third-minute advantage when fullback Lolagi Visinia popped up on the right wing to cap an impressive display of continuity from the home side. Blindside flanker Joe Edwards then demonstrated his potential with a midfield break to charge downfield and link with support that, after several pick and goes, resulted in a try by the uprights to halfback Piri Weepu.
Auckland were back onto attack immediately with their superior combination and support after fly-half Simon Hickey had landed a 23rd-minute penalty goal, and loose-head prop Sam Prattley drove through to touch down for a converted try in the corner after several drives.
The hosts' third try seemed to rouse North Harbour into action, and they enjoyed the best period of the game in the final 10 minutes of the half. They camped in the Auckland 22 with Brenton Helleur, Tua Saseve and Pita Ahki all making potentially valuable breaks, and they gained reward in the 37th minute when captain and hooker James Parsons capitalised on a decision to kick to the corner from a penalty; Harbour secured the lineout and rumbled a maul for the try.
Auckland seemed to rediscover their purpose in the third quarter, after skipper Hadleigh Parkes had seized the initiative by grabbing the ball and charging ahead. They were not as slick as they had been in the first half, but the maintained sufficient control to create a chance out wide in the 57th minute. Centre Malakai Fekitoa was pulled down as he attempted to round the cover on the short side, but Luke Braid was on hand to pick up and dive over for the bonus-point try.
Auckland lock Patrick Tuipulotu impressed on debut with impressive forays with the ball in hand, while Hickey looked well equipped to replace Gareth Anscombe at fly-half. Edwards was another to shine, admittedly with the practised hand of Luke Braid to guide him on debut, while centre Malakai Fekitoa provided a reminder of his exciting promise.
North Harbour were not without redeeming features of their own, with Parsons demonstrating the game battler status that he enjoys, while Helleur, Saseve and Akhi showed promise both in attack and on defence.