North Harbour master the wet for bonus win

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Sunday, September 25, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

North Harbour played the conditions better than the southerners and while there was never any razzle-dazzle about the game, the continuity North Harbour were able to build at a key moment resulted in their first try.

Having been through a kicking extravaganza as both sides attempted to force the other into error, North Harbour, after about 30 minutes of play, decided on a change of tactics, holding the ball and building some field position by virtue of pick-and-goes.

But at the crucial stage prop Nic Mayhew drove to the line and then when the ball was released to the backs in front of the Southland goalposts, some slick work between first five-eighths Bryn Gatland and fullback Matt McGahan provided room for an inside pass for wing Tevita Li who went over under the cross bar.

Southland tried their own version of the same, after the half-time hooter had gone, and in 90 seconds of application got the ball over the line, their best effort of the half, but the ball was ruled to have been held up in-goal.

In the second half it took an opening provided by wing Matt Duffie to give North Harbour their winning advantage. Yet another downfield kick was fielded by Duffie and he sighted enough real estate to warrant an attempted break. It worked perfectly and he got his long legs going and carried play were down field but a risky infield pass to replacement halfback Bryn Hall couldn't be held.

Southland had replaced former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan early in the half and his experience was missing at a Southland scrum 10m out from their line.

North Harbour poured on the pressure and unable to kick the ball out, and replacement halfback Michael Dowsett threw a pass to first five-eighths Wharenui Hawera who was trapped and had the ball taken off him by North Harbour lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti who scored the try.

Southland did take advantage of some good work by veterans, replacement hooker Jason Rutledge and flanker Tim Boys to create a maul in the North Harbour 22. From the maul replacement prop Penu Ravai popped out with the ball in hand and made no mistake in running 10m for the try.

But with a sniff of recovery in their nostrils, Southland lost the ball in their own territory and North Harbour's pack took the initiative and some solid work resulted in flanker Chris Vui scoring within three minutes and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.

However, as the hooter sounded loose ball on halfway was tidied by Li and as he bumped off defenders, passed out to Duffie, who promptly drew the defence and passed back to Li who crossed for the bonus point try.

Scorers: North Harbour 35 (Tevita Li 2, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Chri Vui; tries; Bryn Gatland 2 con, 3 pen; Matt McGahan con) Southland 14 (Penu Ravai try; Wharenui Hawera 3 pen). HT: 16-9

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