Day 3 Nationals - Open Men's Match Report: Auckland vs Counties Manukau
The match started with a flurry of touchdowns as Auckland starting strongly through a two touchdowns to Wiremu Nehu; Counties then came storming back through touchdowns to Chris Yates and Bruce Kake to even things up.
The game calmed down for a period as the heat began to sap each team's energy. Garry Reilly eventually broke the deadlock Auckland's way but Jono Ale touched down after a quickie inside play to tie things up again in what was proving to be an epic encounter.
Dawson Clutterbuck crossed out wide as the half wound down to give Auckland the slenderest of 4-3 leads as the hooter blew.
Men's Touch Black Tama Guthire extended the lead for Auckland as the second stanza began as the arm wrestle begun to turn in their favour. Henry Tuatea and Daniel Tapua-Siliva then scored twice in as many minutes to seemingly take the game out of Counties reach.
When Tumanawa Tawhai dived through, snatching the ball on the way it provided an exciting exclamation point to Auckland's second-half dominance.
Aaron Biddle managed to cross for Counties to tighten the scoreline somewhat at 8-4, but the home team would need a massive comeback from here to capture the Championship. A bullet-like pass to Luke Chapman who evaded his opposing winger to make it 8-5 with three minutes to go was the start and things tightened further when Counties crossed again; there was time on the clock for a fairytale finish.
A longball to Willie Marsh continued the comeback and brought Counties within one point; after defusing an Auckland raid they had one attempt at the line but Auckland held on to win 8-7 and successfully defend their National Championship.