Auckland celebrated Heritage Day with a vintage performance as they thrashed arch rivals Canterbury 39-19 at Eden Park tonight.
The comprehensive victory was Auckland’s first over the Red and Blacks in six years as they maintained their unbeaten record at home for the last two seasons.
Auckland were determined to make a statement in front of the droves of former players that came along to Eden Park for Heritage Day, and make a statement they did as they scored four tries in a superb first half to lead 32-7 at the break.
Abrasive flankers Sean Polwart and Kara Pryor were everywhere in the opening encounters as they made some powerful surges to give the home side great field position.
Young first five-eighths Simon Hickey got his side on the scoreboard with a penalty kick after seven minutes before crossing for the opening try just two minutes later.
It was his inside Wayne Ngaluafe who sparked the attack, hacking the ball downfield and regathering it before Hickey ghosted through a hole five metres out to dot down for the home side.
Auckland’s defence was simply superb against Canterbury who looked to use the ball and play it from deep inside their own half, and it was Auckland’s defensive pressure that led to their second try.
When Angus Ta’avao charged down a kick from halfback Willi Heinz, Auckland pounced and attacked down the right hand flank, before the ball was spun back left and fullback Lolagi Visinia put a brilliant fend on Patrick Osbourne to go over in the corner.
Hickey’s conversion from the sideline and penalty kick from halfway gave Auckland a 20-0 lead in as many minutes to leave Canterbury shell shocked, and Auckland continued to inflict more damage as Papatoetoe wing Tenina Sauileoge crashed over just two minutes later.
It was brilliant interplay between forwards and backs that created the try, Jack Whetton making a brilliant run, Kara Pryor offloading to George Moala before quick hands from Angus Ta’avao and Liaki Moli put Sauileoge away in the corner.
Hickey continued the fine form he has shown all season and he nearly bagged his second try of the evening after chasing a Ngaluafe kick, only to be denied by the television match official.
However Auckland kept the heat on and collected the four try bonus point moments later courtesy of flanker Kara Pryor following a powerful rolling maul from a five metre lineout.
Auckland’s attitude in defence was epitomised by inspirational captain Hadleigh Parkes who showed great commitment to chase down Patrick Osbourne, and Malakai Fekitoa displayed the same desperation to stop a certain try for Canterbury.
Unfortunately however referee Nick Briant contentiously sin binned Fekitoa for cynical play which coincided with a Canterbury comeback as the visitors scored two tries either side of halftime during his absence to narrow the deficit to 32-14.
Osbourne and replacement wing Rob Thompson scored while Fekitoa spent 10 minutes on the sidelines, and when Thompson bagged his second try of the night on the 50 minute mark Canterbury edged back in it at 32-19.
However the try of the match by George Moala on the 60 minute mark snuffed out any hopes of a Canterbury fightback to clinch a comprehensive victory.
Auckland 39 (Simon Hickey, Lolagi Visinia, Tenina Sauileoge, Kara Pryor, George Moala tries; Hickey 4 con, 2 pen )
Canterbury 19 (Patrick Osborne, Rob Thompson 2 tries; Richie Mo'unga 2 con). HT: 32-7