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Botica steals win for Harbour

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Sunday, August 8, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

After being down 21-6 just before halftime, North Harbour stormed back into the game and in the final quarter made most of the play with second five-eighths Luke McAlister leading the charge and it also compensated for the late sin-binning of All Blacks squad lock Anthony Boric.

Replacement first five-eighths Ben Botica livened the proceedings with some deft touches and had missed a 78th minute attempt but kept his cool to knock over a superb goal after his forwards produced 21 continous phases to set up the chance for a successful shot and the youthful Botica did the job.

Northland defended desperately but could make no inroad to well set up ball by the visitors who achieved their first win of the ITM Cup season.

A try just before the halftime break brought North Harbour back into the contest after Northland led 21-13 after posting three first-half tries.

Northland started promisingly and when the ball was freed after six minutes, the backs opened out with second five-eighths Aaron Bancroft firing a long pass which was taken by fullback and captain Jared Payne at speed and he fed right wing Bryce Heem in for the try with left wing Lachie Munro adding the conversion.

North Harbour struck back with successive penalty goals to first five-eighths Michael Harris but it was Northland that was making the play with the ball in hand and after it suffered its second lost scoring chance, the first by prop Bronson Murray and the second by lock Pat O'Connor, it was veteran first five-eighths David Holwell who stepped through after a fine sideline run by Heem.

Five minutes later Northland was in again after an impressive build-up, with halfback Luke Hamilton outstanding in his controlling play, which allowed Dean Budd to drive across and take his side out to a 21-6 lead.

However, North Harbour came back with two drives at the goal-line finishing just short. Flanker Matt Luamanu was leading the way with some impressively strong play and he was on hand in the 39th minute when Harris made a strong run, breaking the tackle of Northland flanker Dan Pryor and finding the rampaging Luamanu in support to power his way over the line.

Unfortunately, for North Harbour, it lost Luamanu when he injured himself scoring the try and he didn't return after the halftime break.

Heem unleashed a powerful run when bumping off flanker Tom Chamberlain and finding Pryor in support but the move broke down with another handling error, this time by lock Mark Burman.

Midway through the second half both sides were looking to land the killer blow. Northland No.8 Cameron Eyre opened up the opposition defences with a fine run from the base of a scrum which drew support from Hamilton but his pass wasn't able to find support. But then North Harbour second five-eighths Luke McAlister charged onto well set up ball and looked to chip ahead and collect but his kick rolled over the dead ball line.

The loss of lock Anthony Boric to the sin-bin for a goal-line offence allowed Munro a penalty goal chance which he landed in the 66th minute to take Northland to a 24-16 lead. That was trimmed by three when replacement first five-eighths Ben Botica landed a penalty goal in the 70th minute.

Scorers: Northland 24 (Bryce Heem, David Holwell, Dean Budd tries; Lachie Munro 3 con, pen) North Harbour 25 (Matt Luamanu try; Mike Harris con, 3 pen; Ben Botica 2 pen, dropped goal). HT: 21-13