First five-eighth Gareth Anscombe has led Auckland to an entertaining 43-32 ITM Cup win over Taranaki at Eden Park in Auckland tonight.
Taranaki outscored Auckland five tries to four but Anscombe was the difference with a perfect 8/8 from his boot.
ONE News understands that the promising 10 has not been offered a Blues contract for next season but after tonight, Sir John Kirwan and Sir Graham Henry, who were in attendance, might have a rethink.
While his flawless goal-kicking was eye-catching, he also showed sound decision making which allowed the likes of Dave Thomas and Charles Piutau to prosper.
Auckland, who have joined Taranaki and Wellington on top of the Premiership table with 19 points, were coming off a disappointing loss to Bay of Plenty and tonight showed more hunger at the breakdown and line speed in defence.
Auckland led 17-8 at halftime thanks to tries to Piutau and a sparkling individual effort from Alby Mathewson while Jason Eaton got the first of his two tries for Taranaki.
Former New Zealand under-20 flanker Steven Luatua got Auckland's third before Auvasa Faleali'I sealed the bonus point in the 64th minute.
Three late Taranaki tries inside 10 minutes to Jack Cameron, exciting replacement halfback Jamison Gibson-Park and Jackson Ormond gave the score some respectability but the Ranfurly Shield holders never really threatened in what was their first loss of the season.
The competition doesn't ease up for either side with Auckland hosting Wellington in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday while Taranaki travel to Toll Stadium to take on Northland earlier that day.
Auckland 43 (Charles Piutau, Alby Mathewson, Steven
Luatua, Nathan Hughes, tries: Gareth Anscombe 4 con, 4 pen, Simon
Taranaki 32 (Jason Eaton 2, Jack Cameron, Jamison Gibson-Park, Jackson Ormond tries; Jack Cameron pen, 2 con).
Halftime : 17-8