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Never say die Northland stun Taranaki

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Sunday, September 2, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

It doesn’t get any harder for a Championship team than to start their season with three games against Premiership opposition. After losses to North Harbour and Auckland, Northland were in desperate need of a win to kick start their season. 

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It was the first time the teams had clashed since Taranaki thumped Northland 50-7 in 2015. Some pundits were picking a similar score line this time around with Taranaki rolling into town as a legitimate Premiership title contenders, and coming off the back of impressive wins over Manawatu and Counties Manukau.

It took the visitors just five minutes to get on the board when powerful centre Latu Vaeno charged through a hole for the Bulls.

While that try may have come a little too easy for Taranaki, they had to work hard for all of their remaining points as the match turned into a war of attrition with Northland throwing their bodies into the breakdown, showing no fear on defence and running the ball hard at Taranaki.

After Beaudein Waaka and Matt Wright exchanged penalties, Northland were well rewarded for a period of sustained attack on the Taranaki line when impressive lock Tom Robinson barged over.

With the score locked at 10-10 and time up on the clock in the first half, there was disappointment when a loose pass was scooped up by Manasa Mataele who gassed his way to the line to grab a 10-17 lead for Taranaki at the break.

The physicality ramped up even more in the second half as the two big packs challenged each other at set piece time and at the ruck.



Northland’s second try came through some brilliant hands in the backs though as centre Tamati Tua got put in space to close the gap to 15-17.

Taranaki struggled to get their hands on the ball for the remainder of the second half as Northland controlled the ball and the tempo of the match.

But despite having 75% of the possession in the second half, Northland struggled to make any major inroads into Taranaki’s rock solid defence.

With time up on the clock, and trailing by two points, Northland pressed slowly towards Taranaki’s line. Taranaki lock Jesse Paraete was pinged for leaving his feet at the ruck and Northland had a penalty out in front.

Matt Wright duly knocked over the shot to claim the famous one-point victory and send the Toll Stadium faithful into raptures.

Next week the Ranfurly Shield is back on the line for Taranaki as they host Waikato at the Bull Ring while Northland take on Otago at Forsyth Barr-Stadium.

Duane Monkley Medal points:
3: Mitch Crosswell (Taranaki)
2: Josh Goodhue (Northland)
1: Tei Walden (Taranaki)

SCORERS:
Northland 18 (Tom Robinson, Tamati Tua tries, Matt Wright 2 pen, con) Taranaki 17 (Latu Vaeno, Manasa Mataele tries, Beaudein Waaka 2 con, pen)
HT: 10-17