Northland showed why they're a dark horse in the Mitre 10 Cup with a come-from-behind 28-23 victory over Bay of Plenty yesterday.

Things were looking a bit dire at the break with Northland down 23-7 but three second-half tries took them to the win in front of a raucous home crowd at Whangarei's Toll Stadium.

Captain Matt Moulds said they started playing to their strengths and that turned the tide.

"In the first half we tried to play territory but really we just kicked down their throats and lost that territory battle," he said.

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"It became pretty evident that when we just play with the talent we have in the side we can get the result. We'll look to play that way a bit more.

"Obviously our set piece didn't function as well as we wanted in the first half but the message was to clean that up, sort our attitude and get that up higher.

"We needed to work harder too and start playing. We hadn't played in that first half."

Matt Moulds said a change in approach helped Northland to their 28-23 win over Bay of Plenty. PHOTO/TANIA WHYTE
Matt Moulds said a change in approach helped Northland to their 28-23 win over Bay of Plenty. PHOTO/TANIA WHYTE

The front row of Howard Sililoto, Moulds and Namatahi Waa were immense at scrum time and, when given space, the likes of Rene Ranger, Solomon Alaimalo and Matty Wright proved difficult to stop.

Northland were immediately on the back foot as Bay of Plenty opened their account four minutes in through new lock Tom Franklin.

The return of first five Mike Delany to the Bay of Plenty line-up was having a strong impact.

The strong westerly made kicking difficult but that didn't show off the tee with all three kickers failing to miss a kick at goal.

Northland defended staunchly but ill-discipline cost them on the scoreboard.

After Monty Ioane sliced through the defence for a sublime try, Bay of Plenty were up 17-0 and looking imperious.

A break from first five Dan Hawkins gave Northland great field possession and they capitalised through Sililoto.

Two penalties in quick succession bolstered Bay of Plenty's lead heading into the break, but some soul-searching had Northland firing from the restart.

The Taniwha turned down kickable penalties and were rewarded as Jack Ram bustled over from close range.

Shortly after Wright was the benefactor of some quick thinking from replacement halfback Malcolm MacLeod and a 70-metre break from Ranger.

Bay of Plenty tried to hold them off but the ball found its way out to Wright who darted through a big hole to score under the posts and bring the deficit down to two.

The introduction of Jone Macilai on the wing paid dividends as the flyer showed he had speed and strength in spades.

He was rewarded after Ranger threw a cut-out ball which was almost intercepted.

Wright claimed possession and found Macilai who scored in the corner to give Northland their first lead of the match.

Replacement first-five Peter Breen then nailed a perfect sideline conversion to extend Northland's lead to 28-23.

They were put under immense pressure in the closing stages but Northland's scrum and defence held Bay of Plenty out before MacLeod booted the ball into touch to give the home faithful reason to celebrate.

Northland scored 21 unanswered points in the second spell, showing how dangerous they can be in 2017.

Moulds said Northland was a special place to play due to the fans.

"I love playing here at Toll. The fans here are passionate and it lifts us when they are roaring."

Northland now look ahead to Saturday's match against Auckland at Eden Park.

Northland 28 (Howard Sililoto, Jack Ram, Matty Wright, Jone Macilai tries; Dan Hawkins 2 cons, Peter Breen 2 cons).
Bay of Plenty 23 (Tom Franklin, Monty Ioane tries; Mike Delaney 2 cons 3 pens).
HT: 7-23.