Air New Zealand Cup - Round 5 Review
Auckland upset Bay of Plenty
August 27, 2009
Joe Rokocoko and Taniela Moa celebrate a try, Auckland v Bay of Plenty, Air New Zealand Cup, Eden Park, August 30, 2009
Joe Rokocko and Taniela Moa celebrate a try in Auckland © Getty Images

Auckland gave their stuttering Air New Zealand Cup campaign fresh legs with a 29-14 win over previous leaders Bay of Plenty on Sunday. Bay of Plenty's first loss of the season came at a wet Eden Park in Auckland where the home side put behind them an unconvincing start to the competition.

They entered today's match third from bottom after losing three of four matches and ended it in seventh place and immeasurably better off in the confidence stakes.

Two tries to struggling All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko aided Auckland's cause on a day when handling and ball control were difficult. Auckland made a bright start under gloomy skies, racing 14-0 clear inside 19 minutes following tries to Rokocoko and Daniel Bowden.

Fly-half Mike Delany, Bay of Plenty's form player this season, kept his team in the contest with three penalties and at 9-14 behind after 54 minutes the visitors threatened to maintain their unbeaten record.

But Rokocoko then struck for a second time to give his side some breathing space, at the tail end of a counter attack launched by lock Kurtis Haiu, who set Williams free after hauling in a high kick from Delany. One quick ruck later, Auckland shifted the ball to the right and Rokocoko loomed on the inside shoulder of Isaia Toeava to cross wide out.

Auckland, who collected their bonus point try five minutes from time when Williams capped off a fine move which again featured good handling from Toeava, go seventh. Bay of Plenty are third, two points behind Canterbury and Southland.

On Saturday, Wellington relinquished the Ranfurly Shield in timid fashion as Canterbury were a class apart in their 36-14 win at Westpac Stadium on Saturday. The writing was daubed on the wall in thick red ink by halftime when Canterbury had powered their way to a 26-0 lead, leaving the home side gasping for breath as they searched for answers.

There were none, however, because Canterbury continued to apply all the pressure in the second-half to regain the shield for the first time since 2007. All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter accounted for 21 points with his goal-kicking, which complemented tries by skipper Goerge Whitelock, centre Tim Bateman and replacement hooker Corey Flynn.

Having lifted the shield off Auckland with a stunning 27-0 result last season, Wellington's tenure ended at four matches after they'd seen off the challenges of Wairarapa Bush, Wanganui, Otago and Auckland.

The Canterbury back-row of Whitelock, Michael Paterson and All Black skipper Richie McCaw swamped the home side in the tackle, and backed up by their tight forwards, the visitors had both the intent and the numbers to call the shots.

Whitelock scored in the 19th minute when Wellington attempted to run their way out of trouble, only to see wing David Smith swallowed up by red and black jerseys just out from his own line. The Canterbury forwards arrived and Whitelock emerged with the ball. Canterbury's superior scrum gave them a solid launching pad in the last minute of the half and they made it count when Bateman scored after accepting a clever offload from centre Ryan Crotty, who attracted three defenders.

The challengers stayed on top during the third quarter, even if they had only one Carter penalty to show for it until Flynn used his low body position to burrow over the try-line from a ruck. Wellington continued to play a bit-part role in the match despite late tries to Hosea Gear and Ma'a Nonu which could not hide their deficiencies.

Taranaki kicked their way to a 12-10 win over Manawatu at Palmerston North in round five of the Air New Zealand Cup. Three penalties by fly-half Willie Ripia and a cheeky dropped goal by scrum-half Brett Goodin were enough to secure their second win of the season.

Manawatu, seeking to maintain an unbeaten home record, had a chance to snatch victory in the dying seconds with the score 10-12, but Aaron Cruden, after picking himself up from a high tackle, fell short from nearly 50m in front of the posts.

Starved of the ball, Manawatu defended stoutly in the face of a rampant Taranaki pack and it was left to Ripia to punish any Manawatu transgression with three well-taken penalties. All Blacks Andrew Hore and Jason Eaton bolstered the Taranaki eight and Goodin picked off a dropped goal to complete Taranaki's scoring in the first-half while Manawatu's reply came from a Cruden penalty.

Manawatu scored the only try of the match against the run of play when substitute Lote Raikabula counter-attacked from a kick return. The winger was tackled but fullback Kurt Baker toed the ball on and won the chase to retrieve the ball and crash over to score despite the tackle of Asalemo Malo.

Waikato warmed to their task after Callum Bruce turned up the heat to ensure they pocketed valuable points against Counties-Manukau. They won 30-8 at Pukekohe in what was effectively a Chiefs trial a week after losing to the Super 14 franchise's third member union Bay of Plenty last weekend.

It was very much against the run of play when Waikato snuck ahead 13-8 late in the first half before Bruce helped ensure just their second win of an unconvincing campaign. The centre contributed 20 points, including a second-half try, as Waikato outplayed the home side after the break.

It took almost the entire first spell before Waikato imposed themselves on the game. Counties-Manukau were in a threatening mood for 35 minutes but their dominance of possession and territory rewarded them only with a lone try to Tasesa Lavea midway through the spell.

Lavea took the ball close to the try-line where it was ripped from his grasp by Waikato skipper Liam Messam. But Messam then threw a wild pass over his own line and Lavea was on hand to fall on it.

A couple of Bruce penalties kept Waikato in the contest before they edged ahead for the first time in the 37th minute when No.8 Alex Bradley detached from a scrum and fed Stephen Donald before the first fly-half snuck through a small hole to score.

Bruce landed the conversion then stretched his team's advantage with a try 10 minutes after the interval when he ran hard on to a short ball from halfback Brendon Leonard. Bruce added a penalty then helped lay on Waikato's third try when he stepped inside his marker before offloading for wing Dwayne Sweeney to cross in the 64th minute.

Otago clobbered Northland up front to set up a comfortable 29-7 win in Whangarei on Friday. A genuine mid-table affair between the teams ranked seventh and eighth was virtually all over as a contest by half-time as the southerners' opened up a 22-7 lead.

The game degenerated after the break but staunch Otago defence ensured their was no repeat of last weekend's shock loss to Manawatu. Their forward pack, comprised mainly of Highlanders' Super 14 players, dominated the lineouts while former All Blacks prop Kees Meeuws made it hard for Northland to win clean scrum ball all night.

Classy flanker Adam Thomson was a standout performer, scoring two of Otago's four tries midway through the first half to open up a margin that was never threatened. Northland couldn't find the attacking gear that saw them topple North Harbour last week as they struggled at the breakdown while the visitors busted over the advantage line superbly well through the likes of Thomson and forward henchmen Alando Soakai and Tom Donnelly.

The evening started brightly enough for Northland, who crossed through fullback Jared Payne after a break by flanker Joel McKenty. A response came quicky through former New Zealand Warriors rugby league back Ryan Shortland, the Otago centre accelerating past Lachie Munro for a fine try.

Fly-half Chris Noakes, who kicked 11 points, landed a penalty before halftime and converted the 58th-minute try to impressive fullback Ben Smith - the only try of the second half which earned them a bonus point.

A perfectly executed try from winger Zac Guildford clinched a narrow 28-26 win for Hawke's Bay in their clash with Tasman in Napier.

Guildford crossed with barely three minutes left on the clock, just as Tasman looked like holding on for a win after leading 17-16 at half-time. Fullback Israel Dagg sliced through the midfield, offloading a perfectly-timed pass to Guildford, who showed speed to burn as he zeroed in on the corner flag to score.

Andrew Horrell's conversion missed, but it didn't matter as Hawke's Bay maintained possession to hold on for the win. Both teams featured pinpoint place kicking, Matt Berquist gifting Hawke's Bay the early lead with a 40m penalty. Tasman's Andrew Goodman responded to level the scores with 6min gone.

Some excellent work at the breakdown, with prop Ben Franks particularly prominent, and good support play paid dividends for Tasman after 12 minutes. The southerners showed patience in recycling the ball through nine phases of play before a wrap-round from five metres out found rampaging No. 8 Mark Bright, who powered over for the try.

Goodman added the extras, and although Berquist narrowed the margin with another well-struck penalty, Tasman continued to dominate possession and territory.

And when Hawke's Bay finally did get their hands on some ball, an ill-judged attempt to move it wide from deep in Tasman territory went horribly awry. Bay centre Sam Giddens gave his pass a little too much air, Tasman wing James Kamana pounced and sprinted 40 metres for the try, duly converted by the ever-reliable Goodman.

However, Hawke's Bay continued to work their way back into the game, two superb scrums paving the way for a penalty try after 30 minutes. Referee Mike Fraser ruled George Naoupu was held up over the line from the first, but then adjudged Tasman had collapsed the following scrum as the Bay pack drove for the line. Berquist converted, and then added another penalty just two minutes from the break.

Three minutes into the second spell, the home team hit the front following a strong run from Guildford. Support was on hand when the Tasman defence stopped him 5m short, the ball was recycled quickly and moved wide for captain Jason Shoemark to score in the corner. Berquist continued his unblemished record with the boot, and Hawke's Bay hit the front 23-17.

However, three more Goodman penalties eased Tasman back in front 26-23 with 18 minutes to go, a lead they held until Dagg and Guildford combined with devastating effect.

The accurate boot of Ben Botica wasn't enough to deny Southland a 24-22 victory over North Harbour in an even tussle at Albany on Thursday.

North Harbour's losing trot extended to four matches as Southland produced another of the second-half surges that has marked their season, coming from 19-10 down with 20 minutes remaining. The southerners hit the front for the first time 10 minutes from full-time through their fourth try, to lock Joe Tuineau, and held on despite a desperate Harbour effort.

Victory with a bonus point carries Southland from fourth to the top of the standings with the remaining fifth-round matches still to be played. North Harbour may well slump lower than their 12th place before tonight, paying the price for defensive slip-ups that undid much of their good work in other departments.

A standout performer in his first start was fly-half Botica, the son of former All Blacks No.10 Frano Botica. He scored all of North Harbour's points, including their only try in the ninth minute from a 70 metre intercept, and landed six of seven shots at goal.

He put his team 10-0 up inside 10 minutes before Southland forwards Josh Bekhuis and Jason Rutledge responded with unconverted tries, the latter an excellent team effort off a slick break by fly-half James Wilson.

Botica slotted three penalties either side of half-time and with his side evening up the territory battle they lost in the first spell, a second win loomed. However, the 19-year-old had a clearing kick charged down in a rare mistake, leading to a try to Southland winger Matt Saunders.

Botica then kicked his team five points clear with his fifth penalty but Tuineau's try proved decisive and left the home side devastated as the full-time siren sounded.

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