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Harbour forwards turn it on

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Monday, October 3, 2005    NZPA    Photosport

He'd been away on a few weeks' break after his All Black commitments and his keenness to return to action was matched by a desire to make a significant contribution.

He need not have worried. This North Harbour pack are making big waves and they were the foundation for a crushing win over Taranaki at North Harbour Stadium yesterday.

North Harbour hasn’t always been known for the dominance of their front eight.

"We've had some outstanding individual forwards but now they're playing as a pack," captain Rua Tipoki said.

"They've been an awesome platform."

And what is Woodcock's take on things, having watched from the sidelines through the first seven rounds?

"There's a lot of positive energy. The guys are just fizzing, to be honest, just enjoying playing for the jersey and doing their job," the All Black loosehead prop said.

"They're working off each other. One guy does something well and it lifts everyone and we're responding to each other."

The front row has been impressive all season and Greg Rawlinson again anchored a strong lineout yesterday.

With No 8 Nick Williams, Rawlinson, Marty Veale and hooker Joe Ward providing buckets of aggression at ruck time and much of the bruising tackling effective, Harbour's reputation as a team of backline fliers with a couple of decent forwards is fast disappearing.

There were four yellow cards, three to Taranaki players.

Hookers Ward and Andrew Hore, old Hurricanes teammates, had a set-to which led to one of those peculiar sights of protagonists chatting amiably as they strolled back to the naughty boy seats. "How's everything, mate? Family well?" and so on.

Taranaki centre Mathew Harvey got a rest after throwing perhaps the best punch of the competition. He didn't miss Williams' noggin, suggesting he's either done some time in the ring, or perhaps should.

The fourth, to flanker Chris Masoe, came just before the end, by which time Taranaki were long gone.

"Our skill level let us down big time. The harder we tried the worse it got," Taranaki coach Kieran Crowley said as he contemplated a significant tumble after his team had been tough and unlucky competitors for most of the campaign.

Harbour are also benefiting from having one of the better kickers around in Luke McAlister.

The All Black not only ran powerfully, he kicked six from seven attempts and much of his positional and tactical kicking was effective.

Halfback Junior Poluleuligaga again displayed his running skills, handling three times in a short side move before crashing over wide out on the left; Ward got a try which belonged to the pack, who drove powerfully from a Rawlinson lineout take eight metres out just before the halftime hooter.

Harbour shut the door on a Taranaki comeback in the 53rd minute when Anthony Tuitavake sped through a gap and when he was tackled just short of the line, Williams picked up the ball and scored, taking three tacklers with him.

Right wing Viliame Waqaseduadua got the final try, after another Rawlinson lineout led to fullback George Pisi slicing through a gap before delivering a classy one-handed pass for the flying Fijian to finish it off.

Harbour travel to Invercargill for their final round robin match this Sunday.

Victory might open the way to a home semifinal. But in the only depressing note for Harbour, coach Allan Pollock wondered where the fans were.