Auckland hold off Counties
Fri, 28 Sep 2012 9:02p.m.
Auckland ground out a 22-18 win over Counties Manukau in a clash of the national provincial championship division leaders in Auckland.
Steady rain at Eden Park ruined the spectacle as two teams who have entertained this season were forced to rely almost exclusively on shots at goal.
The one exception was an early burrowing try to flanker Sean Polwart which helped Auckland maintain their position at the top of the Premiership division.
Despite the loss, which broke a four-game winning streak for Counties Manukau, they remain well clear of their rivals in the second-tier Championship division.
Handling errors and penalties punctuated the match due to the conditions. Counties Manukau were impressive for long periods against their more established opponents but paid too often for indiscipline - most notably when hooker Mahonri Schwalger was sent to the sin bin.
The match degenerated into a kicking duel between both teams' blond-haired first five-eighths, with neither missing a shot in a combined 12 attempts.
Auckland No.10 Gareth Anscombe converted the Polwart try and slotted five penalties for his side, including two in two minutes before halftime to put his team 16-15 ahead.
Anscombe landed another soon after the break after Schwalger was penalised and shown a yellow card by referee Nick Briant, who had warned both teams about repeated infringing.
Auckland failed to capitalise on their one-player advantage with Anscombe and opposite Baden Kerr trading a penalty each in the only scoring for the last 35 minutes, much to the frustration of a small crowd.
Kerr, who is set to replace Anscombe as the Blues' Super Rugby playmaker next year, slotted six penalties for Counties Manukau, who were the more adventurous but error-prone side.
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