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ITM Cup
Anscombe earns Auckland home semi
ESPNscrum Staff
October 24, 2010
Wellington's Alapati Leiua is held by the Southland defence, Southland v Wellington, ITM Cup, Rugby Park, Invercargill, New Zealand, October 23, 2010
Wellington's Alapati Leiua is held by the Southland defence © Getty Images
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Gareth Anscombe guided Auckland to an ITM Cup home semi-final with a rich harvest of 34 points helping see off Tasman 49-10 at Auckland on Sunday.

Auckland entered the final game of the regular season that could have a bearing on the top four in fifth place, but Anscombe's hat-trick of tries and eight from nine kicks at goal helped them to a bonus point win that catapulted them into second place behind Canterbury.

Auckland's first semi-final since 2007 will now come at home to Waikato on Saturday. Young fly-half Anscombe fittingly scored the bonus-point fourth try that secured his side a return to Eden Park in a memorable individual performance, with his second and third tries coming after switching to the wing as cover late in the match.

Toby Morland, Brent Ward, Atieli Pakalani also crossed for the hosts, who took until midway through the second half to feel confident of getting their crucial bonus point, while Kade Poki scored for a resilient but ultimately outclassed Tasman team, who finished 12th overall.

Gilles Kaka's try four minutes from time delivered a 31-28 victory for Hawke's Bay over Counties Manakau at Pukekohe.

With both sides already out of the running for the play-off spots, the replacement struck late on to see his side leapfrog Counties and finish eighth in the table. Tana Umaga created the opening try for Fritz Lee but the former All Black captain's side were to trail at the interval as Hawke's Bay stormed back to lead 24-15 at the break.

Although Sevens stars Sherwin Stowers and DJ Forbes starred for the hosts, Kahn Fotuali'i and lock Bryn Evans scored tries for Hawke's Bay to give their side the lead. Tim Nanai-Williams crossed for Counties, while Forbes added another but Michael Johnson and Mark Jacman scored for Hawke's Bay to restore their lead. Although wing Ahsee Tuala crossed to give the hosts the edge late on, Hawke's Bay stuck to their task and Kaka saved the day.

Waikato couldn't get the tries they needed to finish the ITM Cup round robin atop the table as they brushed aside top boys Canterbury with a 26-6 win in Hamilton on Friday.

Both sides are in the semi-finals of the competition, but a home semi-final is not guaranteed for the hosts who kept Canterbury tryless for 80 minutes. The Cantabs won't mind too much as they achieved their mission of securing a last four spot with home comforts attached.

Trent Renata kicked Waikato into a 9-0 lead, before No.8 Alex Bradley forced his way over for a try. Colin Slade pulled back two penalties that saw Waikato lead 16-6 at the interval and they went in search of the all important bonus, but although All Black Sitiveni Sivivatu made his return to rugby after six months out, Soseni Anesi's try and kicks from Renata finished the scoring.

Wellington secured a spot in the semi-finals with a gritty 27-14 win over a feisty Southland in Invercargill on Saturday. The result saw Wellington secure 48 points to level with Taranaki who had beaten North Harbour in a 12-try fest at New Plymouth earlier in the day. Wellington move into second on the table because they had beaten Taranaki last week. Taranaki must now await the result of tomorrow's match between Auckland and Tasman.

The match was played at breathtaking pace by two sides determined the run the ball deep and wide at every opportunity. Wellington's young but dangerous backline showed their lack of experience in the midst of the frenetic pace while Southland, guided by the calming influence of first five Robbie Robinson were the slightly steadier side but were guilty of some costly errors. Tajhon Mailata, Alapati Leiua and Ged Robinson grabbed tries for the visitors with Lima Sopoaga bagging two penalties and three conversions. Tries from Glen Horton and James Wilson, both converted by Robbie Robinson, gave Southland a 14-10 half-time lead but failed to hammer home their advantage.

Taranaki stayed in the semi-finals mix by hunting down North Harbour to win 49-47 in a 12-try thriller at Albany. After trailing 18-32 at half-time, Taranaki completed the round robin on a high, their ninth win in 13 outings lifting them to 41 points. Midway through the final round Taranaki are third on the standings but can still be overtaken by Wellington, who play Southland in Invercargill tonight, or Auckland, who are at home to Tasman tomorrow.

They survived a torrid workout today after both teams scored six tries and North Harbour were denied a deserved draw when Mike Harris' wide angled conversion attempt in the final minute to Matt Luamanu's third try drifted to the left. Luamanu's second hat-trick of the season capped another rousing display from the muscular No.8 but it was not enough in the end as Taranaki ultimately achieved the result they wanted.

Northland denied a desperate Bay of Plenty a shot at the semi-finals by pulling out a 36-24 win in Whangarei on Thursday. The win gave veteran fly-half David Holwell the perfect end to a 16-year provincial rugby career, which he capped off by scoring Northland's first try of the match after 20 minutes. Bay of Plenty went into the match lying sixth on the table, and needing a bonus-try win to give themselves the best chance of a semi-finals berth. However, Northland -- out of the running for play-off honours in 10th place -- played the spoilers to perfection to shut down Bay of Plenty's top-four hopes.

As if Otago haven't suffered enough, Manawatu rubbed their noses in it with a 46-24 success at Carisbrook on Saturday. Manawatu scored six tries to three to register just their third win of the season and consigning Otago to the wooden spoon. Finishing 14th and last was bad enough for the southerners, who also had to endure coming a clear second to the 13th-placed Manawatu side, who led 18-7 at half-time after affecting turnovers on a regular basis. James Oliver, Craig Clare, Hadleigh Parkes, Rob Foreman, Lewis Marshall and Karl Bryson all crossed for tries for Manawatu with young fly-half Aaron Cruden notching 16 points.

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