Could 2017 be the year Northland push for higher honours in the Mitre 10 Cup? If you watched their 44-13 victory over Southland, you'd be inclined to think so.

The win was only the second time since 2014 Northland have piled on more than 40 points in a match and their first away victory in 13 attempts. The other attacking show was last year's sole victory over Waikato (48-27), their next opponents.

But this game was different. It wasn't a sudden burst out of the blue, rather a matter of when rather than if it would happen.

Rene Ranger was in vintage form in Invercargill.
Rene Ranger was in vintage form in Invercargill.

Already in 2017 the Taniwha have shown fortitude on the defensive line but the clash at Rugby Park in Invercargill showed another side of the team.

Advertisement

Northland boast one of the more exciting backlines in the competition and showed, when given a sniff, they can break a game wide open.

Midfield pairing Jack Goodhue and Rene Ranger were absolute standouts and a constant threat to break the line while hulking winger Jone Macilai proved near-on impossible to bring down.

There is still a fair bit of room to grow for this side which should keep the competition on notice. Captain Matt Moulds said they know they can be better.

"It was good to see the boys express themselves. We put ourselves in good positions and got there in the end," he said.

"The best thing I guess is there are still lots to work on. We weren't patient enough in the first spell which cost us a few opportunities and there were some handling issues but we're really happy with the result.

"If we get go forward out of those two guys (Goodhue and Ranger) it makes it pretty easy for the big guys to make breaks around the corner."

Again Northland showed more than parity at scrum time, which must be pleasing for coach Derren Witcombe but the lineout showed a bit of worry when Southland finally decided to contest.

They used their many and varied weapons out wide whenever they got the chance, exposing holes in Southland's questionable defence.

Goodhue, Macilai, Solomon Alaimalo and Jordan Hyland were all rewarded for their efforts with tries.

Ranger showed the class that garnered him All Blacks honours from 2010-2013, managing a pair of breakdown turnovers to go with his impressive running game.

First five Dan Hawkins marshalled his troops well while halfback Sam Nock had a blinder behind the pack, scoring a nifty try when he found the blindside wide open.

But the backs wouldn't have had their chances if the pack hadn't set such a good platform. The front row of Ross Wright, Moulds and Phil Kite dominated their opposites while Josh Goodhue was industrious in the second row.

The strong performances from loose forwards Jack Ram and Matt Matich were also pleasing.

Northland are a chance for their first winning record since 1997 but before they can get too far ahead of themselves they have to worry about Waikato, who have been in top form in the early stages of the season.

Northland 44 (Jack Goodhue, Jordan Hyland, Sam Nock, Jone Macilai, Solomon Alaimalo, Jordan Olsen tries, Dan Hawkins 4 con, 2 pen), Southland 13 (Aleki Morris try, Mike Molloy con, Scott Eade 2 pen). HT: 22-6