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Canterbury leave Auckland nervous

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Lynn McConnell     13 Oct 2017     Getty Images

Auckland scored six minutes from the end after some great work securing loose ball by replacement halfback Nico Costa which allowed flanker Taleni Seu, second five-eighths TJ Faiane, centre George Moala and wing Vince Aso to work their magic moving the ball at speed before an inpass saw Faiane score to get Auckland within five points.

Costa was involved in winning a turnover and turning rare pressure back on Auckland but just when Canterbury seemed stretched it was No.8 Akira Ioane who spilled ball which allowed Canterbury to claim a win, in the 100th game between the two unions. But Ioane wasn't alone as errors again proved costly throughout.

Significantly, it came after Canterbury applied pressure through a scrum, the area of the game they dominated to best effect throughout to claim a home semi-final. However, they will have their own anxieties after losing centre Tim Bateman to an injury that saw him assisted from the field late in the game.

Canterbury made an early statement of their power and continuity up front when using three penalties conceded by Auckland to press with lineouts five metres from their line. Throw in a scrum for held up ball in-goal and it was a tortuous start to the game, especially when the third lineout, the ball was released to the backs.

Halfback Ere Enari threaded the ball through waiting forwards to Bateman who was at first receiver. He then slipped a perfectly weighted soft pass to blindside wing Braydon Ennor who crashed through for the opening try, eight minutes into the game.

Turning over ball from the restart Auckland finally got the ball in their hands and it was a break by Ioane which gave him the chance to link inside with wing Joe Ravouvou. He took the ball ahead, in-passed to halfback Jono Hickey who had Aso lining up outside him and there was no surprise when Hickey decided Aso's speed was more likely to result in a try.



Auckland, in spite of losing lock Ben Nee-Nee to the sin-bin for deliberately taking down a maul managed to keep within five points. Canterbury attemped more lineout mauling but the ball had to be released and then reworked before second five-eighths Inga Finau made a strong run and worked with first five-eighths Richie Mo'unga outside him to create an opportunity which fullback Caleb Makene took to score in the 22nd minute.

Canterbury were forced to make a readjustment when halfback Ere Enare suffered a bad knee injury and was taken from the ground on a stretcher. His replacement Jack Stratton was to take his chance when they came back out for the second half.

With Hickey landing two penalty goals, Auckland went to the break with an unexpected 13-12 lead.

Stirred up during the break, Canterbury made a strong start to the spell and after more mauling play from a lineout it was Stratton who got across the line in the 50th minute.

However, when an Auckland throw went long at a lineout, Ravouvou ran into the zone in front of the five-eighths and grabbed the ball and used his pace and strength to get over between the posts.

With Auckland back in the lead 20-19, the next time Canterbury had the chance they opted for a penalty goal and then after Mo'unga opened up the defence the ball was moved across field for another surge to the line and it was Stratton who was tackled just short only to stretch out and score the try.

Auckland went close to scoring after Faiane made a break and in denying them an opportunity at a ruck close to the line, Canterbury second five-eighths Inga Finau was sin-binned.

However, in attempting to capitalise from a lineout penalty, the ball was turned over under extreme pressure by Canterbury flanker Billy Harmon and then desperation started to take over and more mistakes occurred which typified all that has gone wrong in Auckland's season.

Scorers: Auckland 27 (Vince Aso, Joe Ravouvou, TJ Faiane tries; Jono Hickey2 con, 2 pen; Harry Plummer con) Canterbury 32 (Braydon Ennor, Caleb Makene, Jack Stratton 2 tries; Richie Mo'unga 3 con, 2 pen). HT: 13-12