Auckland crush Tasman to surge to top of Premiership table
All Blacks Sevu Reece and Tyrel Lomax proved no help to Tasman, as the defending champions suffered a heavy 31-10 Mitre 10 Cup defeat to Auckland at Eden Park on Saturday evening.
Released from the national squad to play in the fixture, wing Reece and prop Lomax probably would have had more fun in the grandstands, such was the Mako’s miserable display, which has seen them overtaken by Auckland at the top of the Premiership standings.
Lomax – who was a late call-up to play from the bench in last weekend’s drawn Bledisloe Cup opener – played a fairly anonymous 48 minutes, while Reece, in his first game for a month, was similarly quiet, having been injected from the reserves at halftime with his team staring down a hefty 24-0 deficit.
Having been the All Blacks’ first-choice right winger last year, Reece has been overlooked for the opening two tests of the year, with Jordie Barrett preferred there. But any thoughts of the 23-year-old taking this platform to remind Ian Foster of his talents were scuppered by a rampaging four-try second-quarter by Auckland, who scored all 31 of their points in a 22-minute blitz.
Instead, it was Reece’s opposite, Salesi Rayasi, who was a standout. He and fellow winger AJ Lam went into the contest atop the competition’s tryscoring chart, and each added to their tallies as part of the hosts’ bonus-point victory.
The result sees the 2018 champions surge four points clear at the top of the standings, while Tasman are set to drop a further place to third, behind the winnner of Sunday’s clash between Canterbury and Waikato.
As far as top of the table contests go, this one was underwhelming – both in its one-sided nature, but also in its quality across the board, in what were excellent conditions. But Auckland just produced flashes of brilliance which they turned into points.
It was a first quarter where neither team could get a grip on the game. There was intensity but a fair lack of execution.
But, come the 20th minute, Auckland were rewarded for a long spell in Tasman territory, with blindside flanker Adrian Choat the beneficiary of a strong rolling maul from a five-metre lineout.
The home side continued their dominance of both ball and field position, as the Mako produced uncharacteristic mistakes – highlighted by captain David Havili twice kicking out on the full.
Eventually, the defending champions’ sloppiness was sure to catch up with them against a team the quality of Auckland, and it indeed did, as the hosts broke the game open with a stunning three-try burst in nine minutes before the break.
Just after the half-hour, prop Marcel Renata burrowed over under the sticks, which came from a great burst off a close-range scrum from Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa – the No 8 an impressive figure before having to be replaced late in the first spell.
Down double digits, Tasman had little time before another team huddle, thanks to a 34th minute stunner to Lam. Coming from a lineout overthrow, it was Rayasi who played a leading hand in the score, with his searing surge up the middle then seeing him link with Harry Plummer, who put Lam away to finish.
If that wasn’t bad enough for the visitors, there were then killer blows either side of halftime, to put the contest beyond doubt.
The first seemed to sum up Tasman’s mindset – no-one getting under a high kick in midfield – which saw Jack Whetton grab the ball and scoot clear, then put Tumua Manu away in the corner for the bonus point.
At 24-0 down at halftime, Reece was introduced, but less than two minutes after claiming the kickoff, he was then flailing at a flying Rayasi, who levelled his tally with Lam once more in his brilliant 42nd minute score.
Plummer had first cross-kicked to Lam, then a few seconds later it was the same move to the other wing, where Rayasi leapt above Mitch Hunt, then burst through Reece’s tackle.
Auckland then weren’t able to add to their tally, as the game again got scrappy, and Tasman managed two consolation tries.
The first came straight after the 64th minute carting off of Whetton, who suffered a nasty fall on his head at a lineout.
AT A GLANCE
Auckland 31 (Adrian Choat, Marcel Renata, AJ Lam, Tumua Manu, Salesi Rayasi tries; Harry Plummer 3 con) defeated Tasman 10 (Alex Nankivell, Quentin MacDonald tries.). HT: 24-0.