Harbour end Waikato hopes


Sunday, September 25, 2005    Fotopress

Already having lost All Black Sione Lauaki to suspension and Jono Gibbes to a persistent foot injury, an out of sorts Waikato watched star halfback Byron Kelleher join them on the sideline before struggling and ultimately failing to recoup an early points deficit.

The sparkling, four-try display lifts North Harbour to fourth place on the Air New Zealand NPC points table.

Guided by the boot of first-five Luke McAlister, Harbour made all the early inroads before the man himself crossed blindside for the first try of the match in just the 5th minute. The homeside’s second was even better: captain Rua Tipoki steaming off a McAlister pop-up pass from 26m out and finding in-form centre Anthony Tuitavake outside him for a spectacular score.

14-0 North Harbour.

Waikato attempted to stem the tide with a 17th minute penalty - the relief quickly cancelled out by McAlister’s first three-pointer.

17-3 and Waikato’s David Hill and McAlister again exchanged penalties... Hill keeping his team in touch with his third strike as the first spell drew to a close and light rain started to fall at Albany.

Halftime score: 20-9 North Harbour

With Harbour resuming play in fifth gear, Waikato’s chances were further hampered by the sin-binning of wing Sitiveni Sivivatu for a high tackle. McAlister slotted another penalty next, before more rugby deja vu sunk the visitors: hard-running No 12 Tipoki on the burst and feeding centre Tuitavake for a fine try.

At 30-9, a commanding lead to Harbour. And a solo 48m effort from flanker Tom Harding soon brought up the side's bonus point try.

A 59th minute intercept and quick ball resulted in Waikato’s Liam Messam crashing over for five points, but another Harbour drive saw the unstoppable McAlister make it eight from eight from the boot: 40-16 now.

As the final minutes elapsed, an opportunist try to Waikato fullback Willie Ripia caused some nerves for the homeside, but the 19 point lead was never in real doubt.

Final score: 40-21 North Harbour


North Harbour. Tries: Luke McAlister, Tom Harding, Anthony Tuitavake (2). Conversions: McAlister (4). Penalties: McAlister (4).

Waikato. Tries: Liam Messam, Willie Ripia. Conversions: David Hill. Penalties: Hill (3). Taking the pulse of your rugby Heartland