Defending champions Canterbury got their 2011 NPC campaign off to a winning start when they beat Auckland 40-33 at Eden Park on Sunday.
Amidst a miserable winter in Auckland, Eden Park was surprisingly drenched in sunshine for the season-opener - which advocated an open and expansive game.
However, despite the perfect conditions it was an error ridden performance in which Auckland could simply not hold onto the ball long enough to threaten Canterbury.
Fifteen unforced errors, many made by Auckland's experienced campaigners, coupled with lapses in defence at crucial stages, gifted Canterbury possession and opportunities which they gladly capitalised on.
"I know we're better than that and I don't think we played to our potential," Auckland head coach Mark Anscombe conceded.
"We lacked composure, our skill level at crucial times and in perfect conditions was poor, we turned over too much ball and our one-on-one tackling at crucial times was very average," he said.
"It was the fundamentals that hurt us badly today and on paper it was a pretty good team but they did not play to their potential."
* Meanwhile in an exciting match at Growers Stadium the Bay of Plenty beat the Counties Manukau Steelers 20-13 in the other Sunday game.
In what was a close and hard fought encounter the Steelers had their chances but unfortunately for the home crowd several scoring opportunities were left unconverted.
Steelers coach, Milton Haig, said his team never lacked commitment, but will need to show more patience in the weeks ahead.
"At times we lacked a bit of patience and threw passes that we should not have, but the guys certainly stayed in the game right to the final whistle so you have to be happy about that," said Haig.
"We'll take a lot from this our first game. There are definitely some things to work on but there are also plenty of positives. The right attitude and commitment was certainly on display today, so whilst disappointed with the final score I'm proud of how the guys never gave up."
Scores and scorers for Sunday's NPC games:
Canterbury 40 Auckland 33
Tries: O'Connor, Crotty, McNicholl, Heinz
Cons: Taylor 4
Pens: Taylor 4
Tries: Auva'a, Mathewson, Penalty Try
Cons: Anscombe 3
Pens: Anscombe 4
Auckland: 15 Brent Ward, 14 Francis Saili, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Chris Lowery, 7 Daniel Braid (captain), 6 Onosai'i Auva'a, 5 Josh Townsend, 4 Steve Luatua, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Richard Haddon or Nathan Hughes, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Auvasa Faleali'i, 21 Piers Francis, 22 Joe Rokocoko, 23 Tevita Mailau.
Canterbury: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Tom Taylor, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Ash Parker (captain), 5 Luke Romano, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Andrew Olorenshaw, 2 Paul Ngauamo, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Reuben Thorne, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Mark Swanepoel, 21 Kolio Hifo, 22 Robbie Fruean, 23 Sam Cottam.
Referee: Chris Pollock
Bay of Plenty 20 Counties Manukau 13
For Bay of Plenty:
Tries: Perrin, Arnold
Cons: Waenga 2
Pens: Waenga 2
For Counties Manukau:
Con: James Semple
Pens: James Semple 2
Counties-Manukau: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tyrone Lefau, 13 Siale Piutau, 12 Niva Ta'auso, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 James Semple, 9 August Pulu, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Mark Selwyn, 6 DJ Forbes, 5 Jamie Chipman (captain), 4 Ronald Raaymakers, 3 Jeremiah Fatialofa, 2 Grant Henson, 1 Ihipa Thompson.
Replacements: 16 Mark Price, 17 Maka Tatafu, 18 Sileki Nabou, 19 Adam Cathcart, 20 David Bason, 21 Reynold Lee-Lo, 22 Bundee Aki, 23 Matt Talaese.
Bay of Plenty: 15 Toby Arnold, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Phil Burleigh, 12 Steve Kefu, 11 Jason Hona, 10 Daniel Waenga, 9 Jamie Nutbrown, 8 Colin Bourke (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Culum Retallick, 4 Luke Andrews, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Daniel Perrin, 1 Tristan Moran.
Replacements: 16 John Pareanga, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Pingi Tala'apitanga, 19 Leon Power, 20 Carl Axtens, 21 Taniela Moa, 22 Chris Noakes, 23 Lance MacDonald
Referee: Shaun Elliott
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