North Harbour make it five wins
Thursday, September 14, 2017 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
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Quality may not have been the highest in the first half, but the contest picked up in the second half with some fine attacking play and some sterling defence from both sides.
The first half saw penalty goals being traded three apiece between the respective first five-eighths Northland's Dan Hawkins and North Harbour's Bryn Gatland.
The only try-scoring chance of the half came just before the break.
Northland attempted to build from a penalty kick to the corner but ball was turned over and Gatland, in his own 22m area launched a kick-pass in wing Matt Duffie's direction. He took the ball, beat Jone Macilai's tackle and linked with fullback Shaun Stevenson and when he was tackled just inside the home 22m area he through a wild pass inside which halfback Bryn Hall wasn't able to reel in.
Macilai tested the North Harbour defence but they were quick to close him down to minimize his chances but second five-eighths Jack Goodhue proved effective at breaking the line courtesy of his strength.
North Harbour were fortunate not to suffer when they lost the ball in a ruck when lock Jarrad Hoeata kicked the ball ahead and Northland turned it over and mounted a nine-phase attack which only broke down when one of the key contributors replacement prop Phil Kite dropped the ball five metres out from the line.
The margins throughout the game were down to fractions as Hall found when making a break from a lineout. Home hooker Matt Moulds contested the ball at the tackle and won a penalty.
From the subsequent lineout off quality ball, Northland moved the ball to midfield before it came back to the right wing where Jordan Hyland changed his angle and unleashed his turbochargers to race in beside the posts in the 58th minute.
North Harbour came back after opting to take a penalty lineout and after nine phases they swung the ball wide where wing Teviti Li crossed to give his side the lead with 14 minutes remaining.
But almost immediately, in the 70th and 73rd minutes, two home town penalty goals to replacement five-eighths Peter Breen took Northland to a five-point lead.
Duffie helped North Harbour regain the ball from the restart and upped the tempo to provide the chance for replacement back Ben Volavola to score a try handy enough for Gatland to be able to land the conversion to reclaim the lead.
Then Duffie secured another restart and while Northland turned the ball over, in their desire to move the ball quickly Jack Goodhue's pass was intercepted by Vaega who finally gained control of the ball and then sidestepped past fullback Alaimalo to score the match-winner.
Scorers: Northland 22 (Jordan Hyland try; Dan Hawkins 3 pen; Peter Breen con, 2 pen) North Harbour 31 (Tevita Li, Ben Volavola, Matt Vaega tries; Bryn Gatland 2 con, 4 pen). HT: 9-9
FT | What a match! @HarbourRugby continue their winning ways to defeat @RugbyNorthland 31 - 22 and remain unbeaten.#NORvHAR pic.twitter.com/sMb7T05VE1— Mitre10 Cup (@Mitre10Cup) September 14, 2017
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