Match report: Free wheeling Auckland swamp Waikato
August 11, 2007

An expansive Auckland's patience wasn't always a virtue but their unbridled panache was more than sufficient to dent Waikato's defence of the provincial rugby crown with a rollicking 47-26 victory at Eden Park.

Blessed by a firm track and a kick-off before the dew set in, Auckland over ran the Air NZ Cup holders with a typically enterprising performance, outscoring the defending champions six tries to two before a sparse though well rewarded crowd of 13,559.

Although attention was focused in the capital for Tana Umaga's final farewell, World Cup-bound winger Doug Howlett notched his own memorable milestone by posting his 50th try for the province seven minutes before time as Auckland's margin ballooned out.

Howlett was twice on the end of a smoothly functioning Auckland chain, clinically applying the finishing touches as last year's beaten semifinalists hinted at a better outcome in 2007.

Waikato made a dream start when Stephen Donald goaled two penalties inside the opening 120 seconds but Brent Ward duly got the home side moving in the ninth minute, though he was to make greater contributions later on as the fullback set up a try for Sam Tuitupou with a neat chip kick before nailing the bonus point try when crossing behind the posts in the 58th minute.

Waikato had stuck doggedly to Auckland to that point but Howlett's pair took the home side comfortably out of reach.

Auckland were occasionally guilty of over doing their helter skelter approach but their flair undeniably paid dividends between the occasional rushed option.

Brad Mika was culpable in one instance when he passed from the base of a defensive scrum to the ground where a lurking Brendon Leonard swooped before scampering 15-metres to the line to give Waikato a 13-3 lead in the 17th minute.

However, Auckland's attacking philosophy would not be denied and from a lineout steal two minutes later, pivot Isa Nacewa ghosted his way through a stodgy defensive line before wrong footing Dwayne Sweeney and racing behind the sticks.

Ward misdirected a 30th minute penalty to delay Auckland drawing level but when his speculative chip into the 22 eluded Sweeney, Sam Tuitupou pounced on the loose ball to also race around and narrow his goalkicker's angle.

Donald's unerring boot narrowed the margin to 17-16 at t he interval and although tries to Auckland Ben Atiga and former Waikato captain Steven Bates prolonged the topsy turvy nature of the contest, Auckland finished far the stronger.

The introduction of World Cup discard Troy Flavell in the 51st minute, shadowed moments later by France-bound battering ram Sione Lauaki, added another dramatic dimension to the encounter.

Flavell conceded his first penalty in an Auckland shirt three minutes later but kept out of trouble from then on despite squaring up with Lauaki at a ruck in the 57th minute.

Lauaki also emerged unscathed from his final workout, with one shuddering stop of John Afoa his biggest contribution.

Setting themselves for a Ranfurly Shield challenge at North Harbour in a fortnight, Waikato would not have been happy with their vulnerability in broken play though they could point to being hampered by a drastically revamped backline.

A last-minute thigh injury to Sosene Anesi -- who was to celebrate his 50th game for the province -- saw 18-year-old Jackson Willison thrust into a debut against Tuitupou.

Jared Payne had to switch to wing from fullback while utility Sweeney moved into the custodian role and Roimata Pune-Hansell was shunted out a berth to centre.

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