Auckland's Cornwall Park, today saw the Auckland Sea Lions and First National Northland go head to head in the final round of the Lion Foundation National Junior Competition.
The Foundation Cup result was something of an upset, with 4th placed Northland getting up over the Auckland side 24/22. Northland had a dream start to the game, scoring two tries in the first four minutes, before the Sea Lions had set a hand on the ball. They followed this up in the seventh minute, scoring off a dropped ball. Twelve points to nil and their tails were up. With about 10 minutes left in the half,Northland again dotted down courtesy of their good young half-back, following two penalties on the line. Auckland finally replied, almost on the hooter, to take it to 18/6 at half-time.
First National Northland had taken their chances in the first dig and had come out completely on top. Their first two tries had come down their right flank, catching the Sea Lions outside backs completely out of position. They were reading the game perfectly. The Sea Lions, however, were not about to lie down.
After a scrappy start to the second half ( I've come to expect this ), Northland went in again. 24/6, and looking extremely dicey for Auckland. As so often happens in a game there came a turning point. A Northland player sent for ten for an indiscretion in a tackle. The Auckland side took full advantage and scored two tries against the twelve to pull the score back to 24/18. Only minutes left on the clock and the Sea Lions scored out wide, finally getting the ball to their very classy winger. They were unable to convert however and the hooter sounded at 24/22 to the northern side.
The Kiwi Cup game went completely as expected, with the Sea Lions winning easily 58/18. The First National Northland team were actually fairly competitive in the first half restricting the half-time score to 22/6. It was only a matter of time though, before the Auckland team claimed the ascendency. Seven second half tries and a couple of consolations to Northland saw the final hooter go at 58/18.
A forty point win is a good win by any stretch of the imagination, but this Sea Lions team don't look like competition winners. In fact, both Foundation and Kiwi Cup teams certainly have the players but they are not putting it together on the park. Next weekend's semi's could prove me wrong - as an Aucklander,I hope so.