Tactical kicking, aerial back-up give North Harbour a win

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Saturday, October 1, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Both teams belied the wet conditions to produce an attractive game with North Harbour growing in confidence the longer the game went.

Bay of Plenty's hopes of putting the breeze at QBE Stadium to advantage in the second half suffered an early setback when Gatland demonstrated again his tactical kicking skill by getting the ball to the corner.

Bay of Plenty cleared the line but from the resulting line North Harbour mounted a monster drive at the line and after a short attempt at moving the ball right, halfback Chris Smylie threw a long pass back to wing Tevita Li who powered over in the corner.

That took North Harbour out to a 25-10 lead, but Bay of Plenty took advantage of a lineout throw that stretched the bounds of acceptance for fullback Isaac Te Aute to slip his way through the short side to link with wing Monty Ioane who scored.

But again Gatland's precision-kicking bore fruit when Matt Duffie deflected a mid-field bomb to fullback Paul McGahan. He headed to the goal-line and when tackled Matt Vaega was perfectly placed in support to score.

Gatland then unleashed a chip kick over the Bay defences and McGahan secured the ball and kicked into the Bay 22m area. The home forwards arrived en masse, secured the ruck ball and the ball was moved where prop Nic Mayhew celebrated by scoring the first try of his first-class career.

A lineout try was scored by Bay of Plenty replacement forward Henry Stowers but North Harbour replacement halfback Bryn Hall negated that after lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti latched onto ball dropped by the Bay. From the ruck Hall lobbed a kick to space on the right and Duffie ran onto it and went in for the side's sixth try.

Replacement Jesse Parete made the last five minutes interesting when scoring from a Bay of Plenty breakout but it was too little late.

Bay of Plenty scored the first try after a superb period of co-ordinated work by the pack as they applied pressure at the breakdown to get good drive going and when close to the goal-line the ball was released to the backs and it was second five-eighths Teddy Stanaway who exploited a gap to cross 17 minutes into the game.

Some fine individual play by North Harbour got them back in the game. Firstly wing Matt Duffie pulled off a superb aerial catch at speed to race into space and set up good ball for the pack to work on and when the ball was moved left wing Tevita Li held the ball up long enough at the breakdown for it to be recycled to effect and skipper and lock Chris Vui showed great skill to get over for a try in the 29th minute.

Bay of Plenty went straight back onto attack and were building up a chance similar to their earlier try when the ball was dropped just ahead of the North Harbour line. Second five-eighths Michael Little summed the situation up and moved the ball from the shadow of the goal-posts.

Gatland and Duffie combined to clear the ball to halfway and when Duffie's in-pass went to land, Little was on hand to toe the ball ahead and then get his hands on the ball to set up the breakdown. The ball was moved back across to the left where Li was able to score in the corner.

Bay of Plenty lost flanker Hugh Blake with a serious leg injury just before half-time.

Scorers: North Harbour 44 (Chris Vui, Tevita Li 2, Matt Vaega, Nic Mayhew, Matt Duffie tries; Bryn Gatland 4 con, 2 pen) Bay of Plenty 34 (Teddy Stanaway, Monty Ioane, Henry Stowers, Joe Royal, Jess Parete tries; Dan Hollinshead 3 con, pen). HT: 20-10

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