A glorious winter’s afternoon in New Zealand saw the Auckland Vulcans triumph over the Western Suburbs Magpies by 30-12.
It was a case of things all too familiar for Wests, with Auckland racing to a 14-0 lead inside 15 minutes, with tries to Dylan Collier, Agnatius Passi and James Blackwell coming on the back of poor discipline from the Magpies.
Although the defence toughened up after the opening quarter hour, the Vulcans were too quick out on the left flank, with a sweeping backline spread allowing Rust Bristow to cross despite close attention.
Dylan collier missed yet again to leave the Vulcans up 18-0 with ten minutes to go until the break.
With the Vulcans and Magpies trading penalties, discipline became key, and it was Auckland who demonstrated better behaviour with ball in hand, resulting in Visesio Setefano crossing through some feeble Wests defence on half time.
Collier added the extras to leave the Vulcans cruising at the break by 24-0.
The Vulcans returned for the second half looking a shadow of not only last year’s runners up, but even their first half selves as the Magpies were gifted three penalties and three handling errors inside the opening ten minutes of the second half.
The brain-explosions of the Vulcans bore fruit for the boys from Campbelltown, with Latu Fifita showing a delightful right foot sidestep to crash over next to the posts with three Vulcans on his back.
Fifita converted his own try to bring the Magpies back to 24-6
The Magpies looked to be building some momentum as Auckland struggled to hold off the now buoyant Magpies.
However, things came unstuck for Wests. Dean Parata’s inside ball on halfway had the potential to send Nigel Millgate clear. However, Agnatius Passi stuck a lucky right hand out and poured water on the Magpies fire with a 25 metre burst.
With the Magpies defence having scrambled well on the edges, the same could not be said for the centre, and Vulcans second rower Murray Iti strolled over untouched under the posts.
Dylan Collier added the extras to restore the Vulcan’s 24 point buffer at 30-6.
Despite the set back, the Magpies clearly felt this was their time to demonstrate they would be ni pushovers and their line speed bustled the Vulcans into several errors.
It was almost a mirror image of what had been the story thus far this year, with the Magpies looking a little disjointed in attack and dropping plenty of possession, while the defence set about leaving some very deep bruises on several Vulcans, with Aaron Sweeney knocking Vulcans hooker Aaron Nootai into next month with an absolute bottler on the hour mark.
The Vulcans never stopped coming at the Magpies, and nearly got a neat kick behind Greg Davis. However, Davis not only showed enough speed to stop the ball, but then picked up the scraps and made a swerving 40 metre dash, beating no less than seven Vulcans players in the process.
For the first time since their gallant defeat at Cronulla, the Magpies could not be broken and it was Wests who finished off the afternoon’s scoring, with Henry Iuta on the end on a massive backline swing to the right flank.
Latu Fifita converted for 30-12, which was where the score remained until time, which came about, appropriately enough, through a double knock-on.
For Auckland, James Blackwell was classy from the back, while Sam Lousi and Agnatius Passi caused Wests all sorts of trouble.
For the Magpies, it was déjà vu all over again with Dean Parata leading the way, while impressive attacking efforts came from Henry Iuta and Seffa Silafu, while Aaron Sweeney and Tom Morrison muscled up in defence.
The performance left even Vulcans fans wondering what could have been had the opening 15 minutes been different.
Next week the Vulcans travel across the ditch to take on Manly at Brookvale, while the Magpies return to Australian soil with a trip down Appin Road to clash with the Illawarra Cutters, both matches kicking off at 3pm Saturday.
AUCKLAND 30 (Dylan Collier, Agnatius Passi, James Blackwell, Rusty Bristow, Murray Iti tries; Dylan Collier 3 from 6) def WESTERN SUBURBS 12 (Latu Fifita, Henry Iuta tries; Latu Fifita 2 from 2)
Half time: Auckland 24 Wests 0
Penalties: Wests 8 Auckland 7
14. James Blackwell
2. Dylan Collier
3. Rusty Bristow
16. Agnatius Passi
18. Ivan Penehe
6. Willie Stowers
5. Steve Waetford
17. Daniel Palavi
9. Aaron Nootai
10. Suaia Matagi
15. Arden McCarthy
12. Sam Lousi
11. Murray Iti
1. Leni Sulusi
4. SJ Bristow
13. Sebastine Ikahihifo
19. Visesio Setafano
1. Zoram Watene
2. Greg Davis
21. Tuki Jackson
24. Henry Iuta
5. Michael La Manna
9. Henry Godinet
7. Nigel Millgate
8. Aaron Sweeney
6. Dean Parata
10. Jay Maseuli
11. Seffa Silafua
12. Tom Morrison
13. Alan Daly
14. Chris Nay
16. Latu Fifita
17. Todd Makejev
18. Keanu Rogers
A big thank you to Keith Topolski for travelling to Auckland to do this review.