Auckland sealed a home NPC semi-final with a come-from behind 29-22 defeat of Wellington at Eden Park.
A 21,000 crowd had been anticipating a high-scoring, flowing spectacle between two of the Championship’s most expansive sides.
But some rusty performances from a clutch of returning All Blacks made for a more prosaic encounter.
Auckland full-back Brett Ward kicked 19 points, from five penalties and two conversions, with loose forward pairing Daniel Braid and Bradley Mika touching down.
The visitors’ prolific Samoan winger Lome Fa’atau scored twice, with Ma’a Nonu also registering. Kicker Jimmy Gopperth converted twice and notched one penalty.
The Auks can confirm top spot next week with victory in the Ranfurly Shield clash with Canterbury.