Canterbury edge Auckland to secure home semi-final, Auckland on the verge of relegation in NPC

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NZN

Auckland's chances of escaping relegation from rugby's NPC premiership hinge on other results after they were beaten 32-27 by second-placed Canterbury at Eden Park tonight.

Second from bottom on the table, Auckland will have to wait for the result of tomorrow's cross-over match between last-placed Waikato and Bay of Plenty to see who will play in the championship next year.

If Waikato win, Auckland will be demoted, while a Waikato loss will consign them to the second tier.

The win also earns Canterbury a home semi-final for next week's premiership play-offs.

Canterbury began with their customary efficiency, taking on Auckland up front and building early pressure before winger Braydon Ennor crossed in the ninth minute after running onto a beautifully weighted ball from centre Tim Bateman.

Auckland took barely two minutes to reply despite feeding off scraps of possession and minimal territory.

Playmaker Jono Hickey made the final pass to a flying Vince Aso, the Hurricanes speedster too quick for the Canterbury cover defence as Auckland levelled the scores.

The red and blacks continued to dominate, their rolling maul particularly effective as Auckland were reduced to 14 men when lock Ben Nee Nee was yellow carded after 20 minutes.

Three minutes later, fullback Caleb Makene was over, set up by a Richie Mo'unga offload, to give the visitors a 12-7 lead.

However it was Auckland who took the lead into halftime, two Hickey penalties giving them a narrow 13-12 lead at the break.

While Canterbury dominated territory and held a slight edge in possession, handling errors in the first 40 let them down while missed tackles also mounted as Auckland attacked.

Replacement halfback Jack Stratton darted over five minutes after the restart as Canterbury snatched back the lead, only for Auckland winger Joe Ravouvou to steal it back almost immediately with a superbly timed solo effort off the back of a 22m lineout.

A second Stratton try in the 62nd minute, plus another Hickey penalty gave Canterbury what looked like a safe 12-point lead.

But a sublime sweeping movement, ending in a 74th minute try to second five-eighth Tinoai Faiane, regalvanised Auckland for a final, ultimately fruitless, onslaught.

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