AUCKLAND (Reuters) – Leon Fukofuka scored a 92nd-minute try as Auckland ended an 11-year title drought to beat Canterbury 40-33 in extra time in New Zealand’s provincial championship final at Eden Park on Saturday.
It was a remarkable turnaround for the team from New Zealand’s largest city, who were almost relegated from the top-tier of the competition for the first time last year.
First-year coach Alama Ieremia, a former All Blacks centre, however, guided the side to a 9-1 regular season record and their first provincial title since 2007. Canterbury had won nine of the 10 championships decided since then.
Auckland replacement winger Caleb Clarke scored a 72nd-minute try to lock the scores at 26-26 in regular time of the game which was played in heavy rain.
Canterbury’s Tom Sanders gave his side the lead in the first 10-minute period of extra time before Auckland prop Mike Soseni-Feagai equalised and replacement scrumhalf Fukofuka sealed the win.
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)