Andrew Voerman [Stuff]
If there were any doubts remaining about the Tasman Mako's title credentials in the National Provincial Championship, they were brushed aside on Friday night.
Auckland came to Trafalgar Park in Nelson looking to cement themselves in the top four in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership, but were forced to put those plans on hold as they lost by a record margin.
The Mako were far too strong for the defending champions, winning 40-0 after surviving a tough examination while down a man midway through the first half.
Tasman have now beaten all seven of their Premiership rivals while winning eight straight to start the season and secure top spot, with Championship wooden spooners Northland and promotion favourites Hawke's Bay standing between them and a perfect regular season record.
Auckland remain in fourth, but have given North Harbour and Waikato a chance to edge in front of them and into the semifinal places when they play on Sunday, away to Manawatū and Otago respectively.
Hooker Andrew Makalio put Tasman in front four minutes into the contest on Friday, crashing over from short range, and it didn't take them long to score a second.
Barely nine minutes had passed when David Havili jogged through the Auckland defensive line and into space, playing Ethan Blackadder onside before finding him with a pass, a neat assist to mark his 50th appearance at this level.
Auckland needed to hit back at that stage, and certainly gave it their all, camping out in the Tasman 22 and getting a leg up when former All Blacks prop Wyatt Crockett was sent to the sin bin, after the Mako infringed one time too many on defence.
Somehow, they kept the city slickers at bay while down a man, and after Mitch Hunt found touch inside the Auckland 22 from a penalty, they added a third, when Leicester Fainga'anuku ran onto a short pass and into a gap 10m out from the line.
With Tasman ahead 19-0 at halftime, the game already looked out of Auckland's reach and it slipped further away when halfback Finlay Christie got the bonus point try.
Blackadder added a second on the hour mark, profiting when the Mako opted for a quick tap that set up a rolling maul – even though replays suggested he might have dropped the ball instead of grounding it.
A sixth try followed with 10 minutes left on the clock, Hugh Roach dotting down on the left after Fainga'anuku surged up the middle.
Tasman 40 (Andrew Makalio, Ethan Blackadder 2, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Finlay Christie, Hugh Roach tries, Mitch Hunt 5 con) defeated Auckland 0. HT: 19-0