Late Northland errors led to a tense 31-22 Mitre 10 Cup defeat at the hands of rivals North Harbour at Toll Stadium.

Northland looked to be in control as they led 22-17 with five minutes to go but tries from Ben Volavola and Matt Vaega kept Harbour's unbeaten run alive.

Taniwha captain Matt Moulds said they were confident late in the piece but disappointed they couldn't get over the line.

"With six to go we were getting pretty excited out there but that's footy. It's an 80-minute game," he said.

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"A hotly contested game like this one was always going to come down to a couple of errors and unfortunately we made them at the end.

"We're trying to play that 80-minute game but we've come a really long way. Our set-piece was solid for the most part but credit to Harbour. They showed great line speed and that shut down a lot of our attack."

Northland turned in a strong showing for the majority of the contest, particularly in the forward pack.

Second five Jack Goodhue tries to get through the suffocating North Harbour defence. Photo/John Stone
Second five Jack Goodhue tries to get through the suffocating North Harbour defence. Photo/John Stone

The scrum, so dominant the week before against Waikato, again impressed as Ross Wright, Moulds and Ropate Rinakama continue to be a tough proposition for opponents.

Tim Bond and Murray Douglas again showed their worth as new signings with industrious locking performances, while Josh Larsen toiled well off the bench.

But it was in the loose where the Taniwha really starred.

Flankers Jack Ram and Dan Pryor showed their experience and tore into rucks well, making quick and clean ball tough for North Harbour to come by.

But the star of the show was Jaycob Matiu in his blazer game.

The No 8 was bullocking as a midfield crash runner and will be giving the Harbour inside backs nightmares.

Moulds said the depth of the squad is really pleasing.

"All our loosies were great. We've got a lot of depth in this side and, when guys get a crack, they perform," he said.

"It's awesome to have that in the side and it was fantastic to see that kind of performance from Jaycob in his blazer game."

Sam Nock impressed at halfback while the backs all performed their roles well, particularly Jordan Hyland on the right wing who ran hard all night and was rewarded with a well-taken try.

First fives Dan Hawkins and Peter Breen kicked accurately off the tee to keep Harbour honest.

But there are some things Northland will need to be working on going forward.

Harbour's rush defence proved difficult to combat as Northland made errors uncharacteristic of their season so far while discipline was an issue that Bryn Gatland made them pay for to the tune of four penalty goals.

Northland now have a few days off before next Friday's clash with Manawatu, but Moulds said they would be working hard to fix the little things.

"We've got eight days now so we'll recover hard and then get back into it." he said.

"We just need to fix up a few little things but that's rugby, you know.

"We've always got a few things to work on but we'll be ready to go come next week."

North Harbour 31 (Tevita Li, Ben Volavola, Matt Vaega tries, Bryn Gatland 2 con, 4 pens)
Northland 22 (Jordan Hyland try, Peter Breen con, 2 pen, Dan Hawkins 3 pens)
HT: 9-9