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Auckland scrape home over Counties Manukau

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Sportal.co.nz     11 Aug 2011     Getty Images

And it was a tired penalty conceded with a minute remaining that gave Counties a sniff but they were unable to get the ball over the line and in the process conceded a penalty which allowed Auckland to hold on and kick the ball out after the final hooter had sounded.

Rush defence from Counties Manukau was supplemented by marauding play from their pack who were onto the slightest Auckland hesitancy in a flash. No.8 Fritz Lee with DJ Forbes and Ronald Raaymakers were outstanding in support where at times Auckland's openside flanker Sean Polwart seemed to be operating on his own.

Wing George Moala and his Counties rival Sherwin Stowers looked the most likely to create problems for the opposition. However, that said, it was an injection of pace from wing Joe Rokocoko who fed fullback Brent Ward on a charge to the line which came close to providing another chance for Auckland in the 64th minute.

Fullback Tim Nanai-Williams attempted to break out after Kerr landed his fifth penalty goal, but it summed up the night for both sets of backs when he was shepherded over the line in the tackle by Auckland's centre Hadleigh Parkes.

Flanker Nathan Hughes was over the line but the TMO could not determine whether a try had been scored. Auckland attempted three scrums before the ball was released only for opportunities to lapse due to indecision.

Auckland's best ball from set pieces was most often provided by No.8 Chris Lowrey

Auckland, who had battled to look like scoring a try in the first half, took only four minutes to seize the lead through wing George Moala. It came from a scrum move after Counties Manukau lost prop Simon Lemalu to the sin-bin after he was ruled to have committed a professional foul as Auckland mounted a serious assault in the Counties Manukau goalmouth.

Lowrey took the ball from the base of the scrum and fed Moala who charged through the defence to score.

Counties Manukau started with some fizz, never moreso than after Auckland stole a Counties lineout throw. However, the ball was deflected without control and Lemalu was on it in a flash to carry play up to the line.

They tried hard to set up a try-scoring chance but in the end they had to make do with a seventh-minute penalty goal to first five-eighths Baden Kerr. However, that was negated by Anscombe three minutes later.

Anscombe added three more goals, before Kerr replied.

It was after a blindside break which saw hooker Grant Henson give the ball to wing Ahsee Tuala that created a vital opening. Tuala sped down the sideline and inpassed to halfback David Bason. He was grounded just short of the line but with quick ball from the ruck, and the illogical run out of the defensive line by Auckland second five-eighths Teddy Stanaway that left the opening which wing Stowers was able to cap the move in the 32nd minute.

Kerr's conversion gave Counties Manukau the lead 13-12 and he followed that with a penalty goal from halfway after the re-start went out on the full.

Anscombe landed his fifth goal after the half-time hooter had sounded.

Scorers:

Auckland 25 (George Moala try; Gareth Anscombe con, 6 pen) Counties Manukau 22 (Sherwin Stowers try; Baden Kerr con, 5 pen). HT: 15-16