North Harbour punish Southland errors

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Thursday, August 24, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Having beaten two Championship sides in their opening games, North Harbour have already made their best start since 2006.

Southland had played well enough in the first half to lead 17-15 at halftime but even then the error rate which compounded their second half misfortune was evident earlier.

Led by No.8 Murphy Taramai and flankers Geoff Collett and Glenn Preston in the loose, North Harbour came back as halfback Bryn Hall and first five-eighths Bryn Gatland took control to move their talented backline around the field where wings Tevita Li and Matt Duffie, fullback Shaun Stevenson and centre Matt Vaega thrived in the opportunities and conditions.

During the first half Southland No.8 Elliot Dixon made his presence felt, not only in the loose but with the ball in hand one early break creating the chance for a penalty goal to build on the lead created when Southland opened the scoring through a try to centre Matthew Johnson.

That came after Southland adopted an early kicking game and a high ball was bobbled by No Gatland and Johnson was perfectly placed to take the rebound and race 35m to score.

Just after adding a sideline conversion first five-eighths Scott Eade left the field for an HIA and while off his replacement William Talatain-Mu made a clean break which almost created a try scoring chance for the home side.

Gatland's switch from right to left behind a breakdown created a chance for wing Li to penetrate the Southland defence with his footwork and create space for Vaega to speed down the sideline to score.

Southland's inability to hold onto ball, or make right choices, resulted in the 10-10 deadlock being broken in the 34th minute when hooker Brayden Mitchell had the ball robbed at the breakdown. North Harbour lock Jarrad Hoeata who fed Collett to make good ground toward the centre field.

Back-up impetus came from prop Chris Eves and lock Brandon Nansen and when the ball emerged from the breakdown Gatland weighted a long lob pass to Li perfectly to score.

Southland struck back immediately on the back of more impressive play from Johnson in taking the ball into the 22m and it was lock Michael McKee who was ground millimetres short of the line before halfback Liam Howley was able to dive in for the try.

North Harbour made the first impact in the second half on the back of a strong break by No.8 Murphy Taramai which saw charges made at the line before halfback Bryn Hall found Eves charging back on the angle to split the defence to atone for conceding a scrum penalty moments earlier.

Another error, in the 54th minute, saw Stevenson slip a tackle on the short-side and find 50m of free space ahead of him to run in a try.

Ten minutes later Hoeta tumbled from the top of a lineout to the ground, was not held and got up and charged ahead down the right flank before the ball was moved left, through several pick-and-goes before Taramai, on the blindside, fed Vaega in for his second try of the night.

Li also got to claim a second after the final hooter when he got across on the blindside and showed his class in getting the ball down in the corner.

Scorers: Southland 20 (Matthew Johnson, Liam Howley tries; Scott Eade 2 con, pen; Ryan Tongia pen) North Harbour 45 (Matt Vaega 2, Tevita Li 2, Chris Eves, Shaun Stevenson tries; Bryn Gatland 2 con, 2 pen; Ben Volavola con, pen). HT: 17-15

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