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Auckland Hold Out

Auckland made it three in a row with a tense 22-18 win over Counties Manukau at Eden Park tonight.

The hard fought victory ensured Auckland achieved their goal of going through the regular season undefeated at home, but they were pushed all the way by a gritty Steelers outfit.

Tonight’s win consolidates Auckland’s position at the top of the table and gives them a four point buffer ahead of second placed Wellington with two games remaining (against North Harbour and Otago).

With Auckland and Counties riding high at the top of their respective conferences and possessing an abundance of backline talent, the stage looked set for a thrilling spectacle of running rugby.

However the persistent rain put a dampener on the match as both teams reverted to wet weather tactics and relied on the grunt of the forwards and the boot of their first five-eighths to accumulate points.

There were early warning signs Counties Manukau had turned up to play as second five Bundee Aki burst straight through the entire Auckland pack from the kick-off and Baden Kerr booted his side deep into Auckland’s territory.

The Steelers first five had a point to prove to the Eden Park faithful in what will be his new home with the Blues next season, and he slotted a penalty kick in the seventh minute to get the Steelers on the board.

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Auckland 22 (Sean Polwart try; Gareth Anscombe con, 5 pens)

Counties Manukau 18 (Baden Kerr 6 pens)