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ITM Cup Auckland miss chance for late Southland victory

Auckland and Southland kicked off the ITM Cup season with a 23-23 draw that had its fair share of late drama.

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Mitch Hunt's ITM Cup debut ended in disappointment as he dragged a last-minute penalty wide in a 23-23 season-opening draw for Auckland against Southland.

Auckland handed first appearances to 11 players and moved ahead early on thanks to two penalties from another fresh face, Jono Hickey - also a first-class cricketer with Northern Knights.

Ben Lam went over after some good work from Joe Edwards as Auckland stretched their advantage to 16-3, but a Kieran Moffat interception earned him an 80-metre sprint for the line and helped struggling Southland go in at the break just six behind.

The home side carried the momentum of Moffat's touchdown into the second half, with Elliot Dixon going over as they surged past Auckland to take a 23-16 lead.

George Moala's try 15 minutes from time - coupled with a Hickey conversion - pulled Auckland level to set up an enthralling climax, before Ash Moeke struck a post when he had an opportunity to re-establish Southland's lead.

However, when presented with a chance to snatch the win in the closing seconds, Hunt dragged his effort left of the target to leave both teams taking a share of the spoils.

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