Sportal.co.nz 23.Aug.2012Getty Images
Imaginative play by the young Auckland outside backs, headed by wing Ben Lam, created the match-winning advantage in what became a tight contest to open the season.
As the sides were locked 29-29 going into the final quarter, it was a Lam break after some applied build-up that finally broke the home defences and created a try for halfback Alby Mathewson which was converted by first five-eighths Gareth Anscombe who landed 21 points on the night.
The passion of the provincial championship meant Hawke's Bay were not prepared to lie down despite being 9-26 behind at halftime. Auckland had made an impressive start to dominate the first half.
Prop Charlie Faumuina burst across in the 19th minute to capitalise on a strong break by fullback Charle Piutau which carried play close to the line. From the ruck Faumuina was perfectly placed to charge onto the pass from halfback Alby Mathewson.
Then after an exchange of kicks, Auckland decided to run the ball and after taking a reverse pass from lock Liaki Moli, wing Ben Lam chipped ahead and then out-paced the defence to win the touchdown just inside the dead ball line.
Anscombe added lustre to the Auckland effort when landing four penalty goals and two conversions.
Hawke's Bay had their moments but breakdowns at vital moments cost them and in spite of a strong attacking burst on the halftime break their nine points were courtesy of first five-eighths Dan Waenga.
Coming out after the break the home team demonstrated their intensity was at a different level and they had their reward when second five-eighths Andrew Horrell raced onto the ball to twist over the line in the midst of Auckland defencers.
Then a superb cross kick from wing Zac Guildford bounced close to touch in the Auckland 22m area. Anscombe was there in cover but with wing Tino Nemani bearing down on him there was no room for him to get the ball away and he was pushed into touch.
Flanker Karl Lowe was on hand to secure the ball and make the quick throw-in to centre Star Timu who scored.
That tied the scores up as the game headed into the final quarter.
The Aucklanders lost their captain flanker Daniel Braid to injury in the 19th minute and they took time to adjust without his leadership.
Nemani was a menace with his strong running, especially in kick-chase situations while Lowe teamed well with No.8 Mike Coman who had a powerful game.
Auckland in the last year or two might well have lost the game but their cohesion returned under pressure in the final stages to claim the win and offer hope of a vastly improved season.
Hawke's Bay 29 (Andrew Horrell, Star Timu tries; Dan Waenga 2 con, 5 pen) Auckland 36 (Charlie Faumuina, Ben Lam, Alby Mathewson tries; Gareth Anscombe 3 con, 5 pen). HT: 9-26