Otangarei Knights maintained top spot in the RLN Premiership after downing a spirited 10-man Moerewa Tigers outfit 56-28.

With eight out injured and another eight away, Moerewa were always facing an uphill battle at Fishbone Park.

Otangarei crashed over early through Sepeti Tatau as they took advantage of the numbers disparity.

The sin-binning of prop Poasa Rankin was a blow to Otangarei but with still a two-man buffer they scored another quick try through hooker Samuel Henry.

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It could have been another one straight after but a deliberate offside tackle made by Moerewa's Isaac Bray reduced them to just eight on the field.

This was too much for them to handle as Zion Holtz, Franko Newton and Henry made them pay.

Moerewa could have thrown in the towel at this point, especially after losing another player to the bin straight after Bray returned, but to their credit they showed the fight that has made them one of the top sides in 2017.

Bray paid back his side for his enforced absence with a try right on halftime to bring the score to 34-6.

Tatau completed his hat trick soon after the restart and it looked like a repeat of the first stanza was on the cards.

But that wasn't the case as Moerewa, led by barnstorming centre Te Tuhi Tipene, led an unlikely fight back.

Halfback Brodee Palmer played on a nice chip for fullback Jaydenn Bentley-Hape to continue his point scoring exploits.

Immediately after that a beautiful cut out ball set up Tipene for a try in the corner which Bentley-Hape converted with ease.

And once Bray scored his second, Moerewa had brought the match back to 38-24.
But the fairytale wasn't to be as Otangarei iced the game with a strong last 15 minutes.

Centre Jordan Katene broke away to bolt 60m to stem Moerewa's flow before Dominic Ormsby added another four pointer for the home side, bringing up the half-century.

Moerewa struck back again through winger Munokoa Maikuku but a late try to Petero Blake sealed the victory for the competition front runners.

Moerewa now take a much needed bye before the finals series as they try to get their roster healthy.

Meanwhile Otangarei remain in the box seat to be the minor premiers, but will need a victory over Hikurangi Stags.

Hikurangi fell to Takahiwai Warriors 36-10 in a decisive performance from the 2016 champions.

Takahiwai still have a chance to finish the season on top of the ladder but will need Otangarei to lose as well as themselves beating Portland Panthers.

Portland picked up a dominant 56-8 win over Hora Hora Broncos.