Turbos Too Slow to Start Against Auckland
The Turbos spent another game chasing the lead against Auckland on Wednesday night, and yet again their comeback came up short in a 45-28 loss at Eden Park.
Auckland showed confidence from the start, clearly buoyed by their big win over Waikato last weekend. The hosts controlled the breakdown, dominated the set piece, and like all other teams that have played Manawatu this year, they got out to an early lead which proved decisive. The visitors spent far too much time tackling early on, being penalised by the referee, and going backwards at a rate of knots. There was no lack of effort, but with the likes of George Moala and Malani Nanai running around and through the Turbos' defence Auckland sprang out to an early lead.
With nearly 30 minutes gone, the Turbos got their first real attacking opportunity. A pin-point kick from Otere Black won them a 10m line-out, and Callum Gibbins was able to crash over for their first try. The final ten minutes saw Manawatu continue to fight back and improve their defence, but almost scoring was their lot. Auckland meanwhile landed another penalty, to lead 30-7 at halftime.
The halftime statistics told the story of the game, with Auckland controlling territory and possession, while the Turbos had made nearly 100 tackles, almost four times as many as Auckland. Missed tackles were costly too for the men wearing green and white.
Manawatu were a different side after the break. It was their turn to play all of the rugby, force mistakes from Auckland, and close the gap. Jason Emery has been one of the better players this year, and it was the young centre who kick-started an attack which led to Valentino Mapapalangi scoring their second try. The Turbos won more turnovers, looked more dangerous on attack, and started to unsettle Auckland and irritate them into giving away penalties.
Auckland had to play a lot more conservatively, and rely on their kicking game ahead of their running game. Semisi Masirewa skipped through to make the score 30-21, but from the restart, the Turbos took their eye off the ball and Lam punished them with his second try.
The final 20 minutes were fairly even, with both sides counter-attacking at will, but execution was lacking. Eventually it was the Turbos who controlled possession for long enough to create enough pressure to make the final few minutes tense. Fraser Stone scored in the 73rd minute to make it 35-28, but just when they needed to build more phases, Manawatu turned the ball over from the kick off. From there a late try and penalty ensured Auckland held on for the win. The Turbos won the second half 21-15, but another first half capitulation all but ended the Turbos' hopes of victory.
The Turbos have a short turn around before their next game on Sunday, when they will take on Northland in Palmerston North.
Auckland-45 (Ben Lam 2, George Moala, Jono Owen, Reiko Ioane tries; Simon Hickey 3 con, 3 pen; Mitchell Hunt con; Jono Hickey pen)
Manawatu Turbos-28 (Callum Gibbins, Valentino Mapapalangi, Semisi Masirewa, Fraser Stone tries; Otere Black 4 con)