Mitre 10 Cup: Akira Ioane makes 'statement' in win over Wellington

  • 21/10/2018

Auckland coach Alama Ieremia has praised number eight Akira Ioane for putting a frustrating week behind him to lead Auckland past Wellington in their Mitre 10 Cup Premiership semi-final.

Ioane scored two tries for Auckland as they beat the Lions 38-17 to secure their spot in next week's final against Canterbury at Eden Park.

It capped off a disappointing week for the 23-year-old, who missed out on the All Blacks' 51-man squad for their Japan and Europe tour.

But his performance for Auckland showed that he is more than capable of stepping up into the international side if needed. Ieremia said Ioane made a "statement" to All Blacks selectors.

"It speaks volumes of the character of a player when he had some big disappointment last week missing out [on the All Blacks]," Ieremia said. "He made a statement. I think today he made a statement and a half.

Auckland coach Alama Ieremia.
Auckland coach Alama Ieremia. Photo credit: Getty File

"That goes to show the character first of all for him to bounce back from a disappointment and perform the way he did. Yes, he's still got areas to work on for the next level, but hopefully, today is an endorsement of the potential he can offer a team.

"We've based a lot of our forward play around the ability of the tight five to do the work, but also having the loose forwards who can do their decision-making off the back of that.

"Credit to Akira for a very difficult week where he stood up and was a massive influence for the whole game."

Auckland raced out a 24-10 lead at halftime, and Wellington responded early in the second half to close to gap to just seven points.

But the table-topping Aucklanders always had an answer, and when Ioane crossed for his second midway through the half, the match was all-but over.

Ioane said he wasn't trying to prove the All Blacks selectors wrong.

"It's not about proving a point. I just wanted what's best for the team. Today I had a step up, but there's still a lot more to work on," he said.

"I'm just doing my job within the team, and just happy with what I put out today. There's another week next week, so I'll have to keep it up."

After Auckland beat the Lions, Eden Park made a shock announcement that entry to next week's final will be free, in an attempt to get bums on seats.

The match will kick-off at 4:05pm because the All Blacks play Australia in Yokohama at 7pm.

Auckland last won the title back in 2007, while Canterbury have won the last three domestic titles.