It wasn't that long ago that Northland and North Harbour were Auckland's poor little brothers who couldn't match it with the big boys. How times have changed.

Northland stay at home to take on North Harbour tonight in a crossover battle of two of the form teams in the Mitre 10 Cup.

Northland have dropped just one game all season - the one that got away against Auckland - while North Harbour are unbeaten after their promotion to the Premiership.

Despite the task that lies ahead, Northland assistant coach Dale MacLeod said their approach to game day doesn't change.

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"For us it's just about doing our jobs and making sure we get the little things right.

"We're not too focused on who we are playing, just on ourselves and that's worked pretty well so far so we'll continue to really make sure we perform our roles.

"That's things like getting our set piece right, winning our ball, making the right decisions, skill accuracy; it just doesn't change for us. It's a simple formula but that's the beauty of it.

"The boys work really hard during the week and get everything nailed so there's real clarity when we go into the game."

Northland come into this contest on the back of their statement win over Waikato while North Harbour had a hard fought 27-18 win over Counties-Manukau.

The Taniwha dominated the set piece completely; something MacLeod said has been a work-on all season for them.

"There has been a bit of focus there. Obviously we've got some cattle this year that can scrum.

"They're putting all the work in and have some pretty full-on scrum sessions. Set piece has been a bit of an Achilles heel for us over the last few years but we've got some depth in positions that allows us to train and work hard and we're seeing the result.

"We're very happy with the effort [against Waikato]. The boys had a great week of preparation and then they went out and delivered the game plan as per how we talked about during the week which was great to see."

Northland have made one enforced change to the side named on Wednesday with Matty Wright pulling out of his return match with a bout of the flu. Solomon Alaimalo reverts to fullback with Jordan Hyland coming in on the right wing.

North Harbour provide a different sort of challenge than any they've faced in 2017. With outside backs like Shaun Stevenson, Matt Duffie and Tevita Li, they equal Northland's propensity for excitement and flair out wide.

They have a strong halves pairing in Bryn Hall and Bryn Gatland while their forward pack is experienced, led by captain and All Black James Parsons as well as former All Black Jarrad Hoeata.

However as form has shown us, Northland will be more than up for the battle.

The match kicks off at 7.35pm.


Northland: Solomon Alaimalo, Jordan Hyland, Rene Ranger, Jack Goodhue, Jone Macilai, Dan Hawkins, Sam Nock, Jaycob Matiu, Dan Pryor, Jack Ram, Tim Bond, Murray Douglas, Ropate Rinakama, Matt Moulds (c), Ross Wright.
Reserves: Jordan Olsen, Howard Sililoto, Phil Kite, Josh Larsen, Michael Faleafa, Matty Markwick, Peter Breen, Blake Hohaia.

North Harbour: Shaun Stevenson, Matt Duffie, Matt Vaega, Harrison Groundwater, Tevita Li, Bryn Gatland, Bryn Hall, Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa, Murphy Taramai, Glenn Preston, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Jarrad Hoeata, Sione Mafileo, James Parsons (c), Chris Eves.
Reserves: Steven Misa, Karl Tuinukuage, Michael Tamoeaieta, Brandon Nansen, Collett Connor, Chris Smylie, Shaun Treeby, Ben Volavola.


Head to Head:
Played: 38 (1985-2016)
Northland wins: 12
North Harbour wins: 24
Draws: 2
Last match: North Harbour 44-28 - October 16, 2016 in Whangarei (Mitre 10 Cup)
Last Northland win: Northland 58-27 - October 3, 2014 in Whangarei (ITM Cup)
Biggest Northland score: 58-27 - October 3, 2014 in Whangarei (ITM Cup)
Biggest North Harbour score: 56-17 - September 4, 2005 in Albany (NPC)
Biggest differential: North Harbour by 39 (56-17) - October 4, 2005 in Albany (NPC)