Harbour scrum lays platform for good home win

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Saturday, October 6, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

The Harbour scrum, one of its strengths all season, was solid as the proverbial rock, and the home side used it to launch attacks to good effect. But Harbour was not able to fully shake a tenacious Steelers outfit, who picked up one bonus point, which might be vital in the battle to avoid relegation.

North Harbour is now on 29 points alongside Wellington and, while Harbour has had one more win (six) than Wellington (five), any tiebreaker will go in favour of the Lions as they won the regular season game between the two teams.

James Parsons’ men made a bright start and second five Harrison Groundwater scored the first try with a determined run that beat two would-be tacklers.

The Steelers found themselves pinned in their own half, but then uncorked a try from Cardiff Vaega. Toni Pulu made a thrust after off the top lineout ball and then wing Tevita Nabura scored, on his back, after joining the lineout, winning the ball and forming the centre of the maul. Maul defence was an area that Parsons identified after the game as needing work.

However, the Steelers’ scrum issues cost them when referee James Munro awarded a penalty try to the home side. He did also award a penalty try to the Steelers in the second stanza after a drive over the line.

Harbour struck twice early in the second half when a long pass by Bryn Hall put centre Daniel Hilton-Jones over for the try, and then fullback Shaun Stevenson finished a patient build-up. Harbour was 29-12 to the good.
A try to Fotu Lokotui and the penalty try to the Steelers bookended Dillon Hunt’s five-pointer from another strong Harbour scrum.

There was time for a North Harbour debut for Nick Smith, out of the Northcote club, who replaced Bryn Gatland at first five for the final throes. Wing Tevita Li was almost in for his 11th try of the season, but the final transfer from Stevenson was deemed forward.

North Harbour will close its season with the Battle of the Bridge at Eden Park on Sunday week, while Counties Manukau will host Canterbury on Saturday night.

*In the Farah Palmer Cup crossover curtainraiser, Waikato defeated the Harbour Hibiscus 44-7.

Duane Monkley Medal points:
3: Harrison Groundwater (North Harbour)
2: James Parsons (North Harbour)
1: Toni Pulu (Counties Manukau)

North Harbour 36 (Harrison Groundwater, Daniel Hilton-Jones, Shaun Stevenson, Dillon Hunt tries, penalty try; Bryn Gatland 3 con, pen) Counties Manukau 26 (Cardiff Vaega, Tevita Nabura, Fotu Lokotui tries, penalty try; Latiume Fosita 2 con) HT: 17-12 North Harbour