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Auckland Tame Lions to go Top of the Table

Auckland continued their unbeaten record at Eden Park this season as they overran Wellington 43-30 to consolidate their position at the top of the Premiership table.

The heavyweight showdown lived up to its blockbuster billing as both sides showed plenty of skill, strength and passion, but Wayne Pivac’s men simply had too much class for the Lions as they came away with a well earned bonus point victory.

Playing their second game in just four days, there was always the fear that Auckland would run out of gas and succumb to the Lions who had enjoyed the luxury of a seven day turnaround.

But what Auckland may have lacked in energy they more than made up for with heart and determination as they combined some superb work at the breakdown with scintillating backline play.

The Lions opened the scoring in the third minute as prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen crashed over from close range following some strong work by his fellow forwards.

Goal kicking ace Gareth Anscombe slotted two penalties to narrow the deficit to 6-7 before finally showing he was human as he missed a rare, long distance shot at goal.

However he more than atoned for his miss by scoring a lovely try just moments later. 

Halfback Alby Mathewson collected a loose ball and passed to Charles Piutau who accelerated into contact, dragging in three players before he offloaded to Anscombe who stepped the fullback and raced away for the try. 

Lions fullback Jason Woodward kept his side in touch with two penalty kicks before referee Bryce Lawrence awarded the home side a contentious penalty try. 

It was Piutau once again who sparked the attacking movement, making a break and passing inside to Malakai Fekitoa who charged downfield before being dragged to the turf just a metre shy of the line. 

However when Mathewson tried to pass the ball out to his backs with a huge overlap, Wellington prop Eric Sione intercepted the ball as he retreated.

Bryce Lawrence deemed it foul play and after raising his arm to signal the try, he dug into his pocket to show the prop a yellow card.
That one man deficit in the forwards was highlighted seven minutes later as Auckland produced a superb rolling maul from just outside the opposition 22 and Liaki Moli was at the back to crash over for the try.

Auckland looked to be taking control of the game as their forwards in particular muscled up against the physically imposing Lions, however two well worked tries to Wellington either side of halftime had the visitors right back in it at 27-23.

Anscombe negated a try with two quick-fire penalty kicks before wing Ben Lam crossed for a superb individual try 66 minutes in.
The first five-eighths’ conversion from the sideline gave Auckland a 43-20 lead but Wellington continued to throw everything at the home side in the closing quarter of the game.

Winger Alapati Leiua crossed for his second try of the evening with 10 minutes to go however Anscombe made sure of the final result, slotting a penalty kick two minutes from fulltime to secure a resounding 43-30 victory.

Auckland now enjoy a break before facing Counties-Manukau at Eden Park on Friday night.

 

Photo: photosport.co.nz