Bay of Plenty lock and former Northland regular Dan Goodwin wanted a big performance against his old team mates - and he got it.
Goodwin scored two of his side's four tries and was impressive around the park as he and his fellow forwards helped the Steamers to a crucial 31-19 bonus point victory at Baypark in Mt Maunganui yesterday.
It was by no means convincing from the home side but a strong second half effort was enough to lift them off the bottom of the Premiership - above Hawke's Bay and Waikato - as the three sides fight to avoid relegation.
In bright spring sunshine at Baypark, the Steamers got off to a storming start, a Chris Noakes penalty from within his own half giving the Steamers a 3-0 lead after just two minutes.
Goodwin scored his team's opening try six minutes later after Lelia Masaga, Noakes and Carl Axtens had all broken the advantage line. The ball eventually popped up to Goodwin and from just three metres out there was no stopping the big man who went over to score. Noakes converted to make it 10-0.
The Bay backs looked dangerous going forward but the home side seemed unable to capitalise on their territorial advantage. Northland began edging back into the game, led by inspirational captain Rene Ranger, although they were hampered by poor discipline.
A spark of individual brilliance from left winger Mateo Malupo gave Northland its first real opportunity of the match - but his chip ahead after a great run fell into the hands of Jack Ram who was unable to hold on, allowing the Steamers to clear.
Four minutes later Malupo was at it again - sprinting down the flank before his kick through was fielded by Steamers winger Jack Wilson. Wilson's attempted clearance was charged down by replacement Matt Wright who regained the ball and went over to score. Ash Moeke converted from out wide to make it 10-7 at the break.
The Steamers needed to turn their dominance into points and they came out fired up for the second half. Ten minutes into the second spell a patient build up by the pack got them to within inches of the Taniwha's line. That man Goodwin was again on hand to dive over for his second try.
Northland went down to 14 men at 61 minutes when David Hall was sinbinned and the Steamers took full advantage. Reporoa boy Axtens ran in for his side's third try off the back of a scrum, giving Noakes an easy conversion.
The bonus point try followed soon after and earned the biggest cheer of the day from the home crowd. Replacement Mafi Kefu, made a break on halfway and popped the ball to prop Greg Pleasants-Tate looming in support. The big man showed surprising pace to sprint over for a popular try under the posts. With Noakes' conversion the 31-7 score suddenly looked comfortable for the Bay.
A try against the run of play from Samoan international Fa'atoina Autagavaia - after a Ranger break - left Northland trailing by 17 with 10 minutes left before another classy break and offload by Ranger put Wright over for his second.
With three tries, it was all to play for for the Taniwha in the final two minutes but they were unable to salvage any bonus points - that may well prove crucial when it comes to play off time. It only gets harder from here on for the northerners who face Canterbury on Friday.
The Steamers have just two matches left in their ITM Cup campaign - away against Tasman on Thursday followed by the more daunting challenge of Canterbury, who trounced Southland 84-0 yesterday.
Steamers' assistant coach John Walters had described yesterday's game and Thursday's against Tasman as "season defining". With one win up their sleeve, the loyal Bay supporters will be hoping one more result this week will be enough to keep their side in the ITM Cup Premiership.
Bay of Plenty Steamers 31 (Dan Goodwin 2, Carl Axtens, Greg Pleasants-Tate tries, Chris Noakes pen, 4 cons) Northland 19 (Matt Wright 2, Fa'atoina Autagavaia tries, Ash Moeke 2 cons). HT 10-7.