Auckland White suffered their first loss of the NZRL National 20s on Saturday, going down to Central Districts 26-24 at Opaheke Sports Park.
Auckland had led by two at the break, but a second half full of errors – coupled with two players being sent to the sin bin – saw the hosts unable to kick on and get the result.
An Oscar Amosa try with two minutes left in the game did hand Francis Meli’s side a chance to tie things up at 26-all, but Doux Kauhiva’s conversion was wide.
The loss leaves Auckland White now facing an uphill battle to qualify through to the April 10 grand final ahead of taking on Auckland Blue in Round 4.
In a losing effort Manurewa half Teariki Ford was a standout, scoring the first try and setting the second up to give Auckland an early 10-0 lead, while in the engine room captain Victor Afoa worked hard all day.
But despite the promising start a glut of penalties and dropped ball – which would become a habit over the next 50 minutes – assisted the visitors in getting back into the contest and they scored twice to trail just 14-12 at the break.
Central Districts then scored the next three tries in the second stanza, the last of which came while Auckland had only 11 on the park due to a scuffle which saw Navajo Doyle and Viliami Kuli binned along with a CD player.
Late tries to Marist big man Elam Payne and Amosa gave Auckland a chance, but they couldn’t complete the dramatic comeback.
Central Districts 26 (Herman Seumanufagai x2, Lennix Tovo, Hiraka Wanakore, Carlos Kemp tries; Brooklyn Herewini x3 goals). def. Auckland White 24 (Teariki Ford, Te Napi Waipouri, Kaufana Lasa, Elam Payne, Oscar Amosa tries; Doux Kauhiva x2 goals). HT: 12-14 at Opaheke Sports Park.