Auckland centre Ben Atiga kicked a last-minute penalty to steer New Zealand’s Blues to a 17-14 win over South Africa’s Vodacom Stormers in a Super 14 match at Eden Park on Saturday.
Atiga regained his composure after missing three earlier attempts, including one that struck the upright, to land the long-range shot from near the sideline and snatch victory with the last play of the match.
The Cape Town-based Stormers trailled 14-6 at halftime but levelled the scores eight minutes from the end with a Peter Grant penalty before ill-discipline cost them their chance of holding for a draw.
“That wasn’t the way we planned it,” Auckland captain Troy Flavell said in a televised interview.
“I wasn’t happy with our performance tonight, we turned over a lot of ball and made some costly errors.
“We’re going to have to sharpen up a bit if we’re going to make the semifinals.”
Both teams scored one try apiece with scrumhalf Danny Lee crossing for Auckland in the first half and fullback Conrad Jantjes replying for the visitors in the second term.
Grant kicked three penalties for the Stormers but Atiga landed four for the home side, who ended a run of two successive losses to register their fourth win of the season.
Grant opened the scoring in the second minute with his first penalty but Auckland responded with a try to Lee, who darted through a hole after a sustained buildup of pressure.
The Stormers regained the lead in the 12th minute when Grant booted his second penalty but Atiga kicked three in a row to give the Blues an eight-point lead at the break.
The Stormers cut the margin to five points when Jantjes crashed over in the 55th minute then levelled in the 72nd minute when Auckland lock Kurtis Haiu was penalised for punching.
Atiga missed his first opportunity to win the game when his penalty attempt from the left side missed. He made no mistake when he was given another chance in the last minute.
Auckland – Try: Danny Lee;
Penalties: Ben Atiga (4).
Stormers – Try: Conrad Jantjes;
Penalties: Peter Grant (3).