Auckland beat Hawke's Bay
Thu, 23 Aug 2012 9:53p.m.
Auckland clung on to beat Hawke's Bay 36-29 in a lively match to kick-start the 2012 national provincial championship.
Up 26-9 at halftime, the Aucklanders conceded 20 unanswered points at Napier's McLean Park on Thursday before recovering to seal victory with a late try to halfback Alby Mathewson.
The early exit through injury of captain Daniel Braid put a dampener on the evening for Auckland, who deserved victory through their more cohesive work at the breakdown.
They scored three tries to two and first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe knocked over 21 points with the boot, compared to 19 from Hawke's Bay opposite Daniel Waenga.
The hosts, who were promoted from the Championship last year to the Premiership, were at their best through the third quarter but otherwise looked disjointed for long periods.
Auckland benefited from the strong work of prop Charlie Faumuina, the combination of halves Mathewson and Anscombe and the sheer speed of right winger Ben Lam.
Hawke's Bay responded to two early Anscombe penalties with one from Waenga but they were 13-3 down when the burly Faumuina - released by the All Blacks for this game - crashed over for the opening try.
Two more Waenga penalties reduced the margin but Anscombe then slotted two more before the break, either side of a try by Lam when he chased down his own long kick.
Centre Andrew Horrell began the Hawke's Bay fightback in the second half when he crashed through a host of defenders.
Midfield partner Star Timu fell over the line after a quick lineout throw from Karl Lowe before two Waenga penalties gave Hawke's Bay the lead for the first time entering the final quarter.
Anscombe levelled the scores at 29-all before Mathewson capitalised on a sizzling Lam break with six minutes remaining.
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