27 Oct 2018

Auckland edge Canterbury in extra-time thriller

6:42 pm on 27 October 2018

Auckland have edged Canterbury 40-33 in an extra-time thriller at Eden Park to win the national premiership rugby title for the first time since 2007.

George Bridge

George Bridge Photo: Photosport

Canterbury went into the final with momentum, having won nine of the last 10 domestic titles, but recent form was with Auckland, who had inflicted a 34-29 loss on the defending champions last month.

The visitors started strongly, building up a useful 20-7 half-time lead through a penalty try, smart work from George Bridge, and accurate kicking from first five-eighth Brett Cameron.

Centre Tumua Manu's 33rd-minute try put Auckland on the board, and the home team refocused to surge back in the second spell, tries to Akira Ioane, Jordan Trainor and Caleb Clarke levelling the scores 26-26 at the end of regulation time.

Tom Sanders crossed first for Canterbury in extra time, but Mike Sosene-Feagai hit back for Auckland to again level the scores 33-33 going into the second spell of added time.

Superb support work from replacement halfback Leon Fukofuka was rewarded soon after the restart, and Auckland defended their 40-33 lead for the final eight minutes.

Earlier, fourth qualifier Thames Valley upset South Canterbury 17-12 in the Meads Cup final in Timaru.

Trailing 3-12 at halftime, the visitors kept South Canterbury scoreless in the the second spell and turned in a dominant effort up front which was capped off with crucial tries to skipper Brett Ranga and replacement prop Sergio de la Fuente.