NPC rugby: Auckland overcome Southland, fire alarm, in bizarre match

Fans evacuate the grandstand during a fire emergency. Photo / Photosport

When Auckland traveled to Invercargill’s Rugby Park, neither Southland nor the ground’s fire alarm could prevent them from leaving with their third win of the National Provincial Championship season.

Auckland saw off a tough challenge at the end of their three-match “storm week”, claiming a 24-23 win in a match that, if remembered, will be so for a lengthy second half delay.

In one of the more bizarre situations you’ll see in a rugby match, the venue’s fire alarm began to sound three minutes into the second half, reportedly due to a toaster in a corporate room, and the game was called to a halt.

During the delay, spectators filed out of their seats and joined players, referees and coaching staff in milling about on the pitch. After about 20 minutes, the match was able to resume and went on without disruption for the rest of the contest.

It took Auckland some time to find their way into the game as the hosts had the better of the early exchanges and took an early lead through a Marty Banks penalty goal.

However, on the back of some strong work from the pack, Auckland began to string some phases together and edge into Southland territory. It took them more than 20 minutes, but eventually the visitors were able to crack the Stags defenses and take the lead through No 8 Jackson Pugh.

The sides continued to scrap for territory and possession, but Auckland’s newfound ascendancy was soon built upon when a rolling maul deep inside the Southland 22m was taken down illegally. Stags lock Josh Bekhuis was shown a yellow card for the infringement, and the visitors sensed the time had come to extend the lead.

With the Stags down a forward, Auckland dominated them at the scrum and doubled their lead – with a penalty try awarded after the scrum was stopped illegally as it steamrolled towards the Southland try line from 5m out.

A late penalty on the siren saw Southland get a little more reward for their play in the half, but Auckland were deserved leaders at the break.

Fire and Emergency services showed up to the Southland v Auckland match.  Photo / Photosport
Fire and Emergency services showed up to the Southland v Auckland match. Photo / Photosport

When play resumed following the alarm delay, Southland went right about chasing the game and, despite being a man down for a couple of minutes in the half, took the game to Auckland. But after Auckland extended their lead through a Harry Plummer penalty goal, the hosts needed to be the team to score next.

Southland went over just three minutes after the penalty, with center Isaac Te Tamaki running a good line from close range. After another penalty just minutes later, the gap was down to one point and the chances of an upset were live heading into the final quarter of the game.

Auckland pushed their lead back out in the 65th minute when wing Salesi Rayasi put the finishing touches on a break up-field and were able to keep Southland at arm’s length in the final minute.

The Stags scored a consolation try right at the death, but at that point the best they could do was reduce Auckland’s eight-point lead to one and secure a bonus point.

Elsewhere, Taranaki’s dismal start to the season continued with a 46-6 loss against Bay of Plenty, while North Harbor destroyed Manawatū 64-14, with Tevita Li scoring a first-half hat-trick.

In the only Farah Palmer Cup match of the day, Counties Manukau claimed their second win of the season with a 25-12 win over Otago.

Counties went down after just four minutes when Bay of Plenty crossed through Payton Takimoana, but a Hazel Tubic penalty goal saw them trail by just two at the break, before finishing strong in the second half.

Auckland 24 (Jackson Pugh, penalty try, Salesi Rayasi tries; Harry Plummer 2 cons, pen)
Southland 23 (Isaac Te Tamaki, Jakob Morrison tries; Marty Banks con, 3 pins, Greg Dyer con)
HT: 14-6

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