A dominant second-half display underpinned Auckland Blue’s commanding 34-4 victory over South Island in the NZRL National 20-year competition match in Christchurch on Sunday.
A vocal Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub crowd enjoyed an absorbing first-half tussle, with Auckland taking an 8-4 lead into the break. But the visitors stepped up a couple of gears in the second stanza, scoring four unanswered tries to run away convincing winners.
South Island tryscoring chances went begging either side of Auckland Blue’s sixth-minute opener, with centre Benjamin Kosi powering over from close range.
Kosi’s pace and footwork proved too hard to handle again five minutes later, leaving South Island defenders strewn in his wake on the way to an early double.
But the hosts struck back almost immediately, fullback Mapu Uasi continuing his magnificent National 20s campaign by brilliantly latching onto a grubber from halfback Jesse Wihongi and diving in for the try.
After a lengthy injury break as Auckland fullback Nehumi Teu was stretchered off, Uasi went agonisingly close to scoring in the corner and livewire hooker Sincere Harraway was held up under the posts in the same set. South Island was able to keep their line intact under heavy fire in the lead-up to halftime, heading to the sheds four points down.
But the home side sent the second-half kick-off out on the full, providing Auckland with a gilt-edged chance. Big interchange forward Tupou Fifita reached a long arm out to score their third try.
The visitors took an iron grip on the game with a stunning try 10 minutes into the second stanza. After right-edge second-rower Salesi Ataata put Kosi into the clear, Auckland swept back to the left for skipper and back-rower Zyon Maiu’u to storm over.
The imposing Maiu’u busted the South Island defence again five minutes later to make it a double.
Auckland Blue hooker Stanley Iongi capped a strong running game by darting over for his side’s sixth try with 12 minutes to go.
Caleb Laiman iced the 30-point win with a penalty – his fifth goal of the day – after the siren.
Auckland Blue 34 (Benjamin Kosi 2, Zyon Maiu’u 2, Tupou Fifita, Stanley Iongi tries; Caleb Laiman 5 goals) South Island 4 (Mapu Uasi try) at Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, Christchurch, Sunday 14th March.