Fine and warm at Auckland's Ericcson today where current Bartercard Cup holders, Mt Albert, took on the Otahuhu/Ellerslie franchise in the curtain raiser to the Warriors Penrith clash.
Mt Albert consolidated their position at the top of the table with a fairly convincing 28/16 win over the joint venture. Consistency is the name of the Lions game and Bluey McClennan would have been more than happy with his team's performance.
Otahuhu Ellerslie looked a completely different team to the outfit that mauled the Stallions one week earlier at the same ground. To be fair, they were without young speedsters, Cooper Vuna and Paki Ormsby, but their completion rate was extremely poor.
Mt Albert owned the first half with tries to Rowan Baxter ( this guy seriously has to get the call to the local NRL side very soon ), Adam Ellwood, Robinson Godfrey and former French International, Phil Shead. Godfrey's effort was a trade mark 70 metre runaway. Otahuhu Ellerslie posted through stand-off Thomas Zwart who converted as well.
22/6 at the break and Otahuhu Ellerslie had it all in front of them.
A brighter start to the second half for them though, when big front rower, George Tuakura hit the line at speed and claimed a try. Zwart converted and it was a ten point game. The Lions were never going to be troubled though, and a soft one to number six, Steve Buckingham, self converted, put it beyond doubt. Otahuhu Ellerslie grabbed a consolation with sixteen minutes left but the game was over.
Lions rookie centre, Patrick Au Van, had a great game in his first Bartercard effort. His pairing with winger Baxter worked so well.
Otahuhu Ellerslie wing, Darren Kingi, simply did not get the ball to perform his magic. Kingi is set to be one of the best stand-off's this country has produced for a long, long time and I seriously question his positioning at outside back.