Steven Holloway is the football writer for the NZ Herald.

Rugby: Northland snatch thrilling win

Northland players celebrate the win over Waikato during the round three ITM Cup match between Waikato and Northland. Photo / Getty Images.
Northland players celebrate the win over Waikato during the round three ITM Cup match between Waikato and Northland. Photo / Getty Images.

Waikato 27
Northland 29

Northland first-five Ash Moeke kicked his side to a thrilling last minute 29-27 ITM Cup victory over Waikato in Hamilton tonight.

In an exciting, end to end, see-saw game where the lead changed a fascinating seven times, Moeke capped a frantic finish by slotting a difficult 78th minute conversion to lead his side to victory after Northland flanker Dan Pryor had leveled the scores with a late try.

Waikato thought they had won the match six minutes earlier when Declan O'Donnell sidestepped his way to a scintillating try to give the home side a five point lead but Northland produced another twist in the script.

Northland held the lead on four different occasions throughout the match and were deserving of their win against their highly fancied opponents. Their side is packed with flair and adventure and they had ironed out a number of the tackling mistakes and careless penalties which plagued their opening loss to Otago.

Waikato were desperate to make the most of their luxurious full week off since their opening win over North Harbour - but that advantage was slightly offset by a virus which spread through the team and restricted their training midweek.

Despite losing some big names over the summer, Waikato still look a strong, balanced side and will be bitterly disappointed in their inability to hold onto the win with so little time on the clock.

Waikato landed the first blow in an action packed first half when Matt Vant Leven touched down after just seven minutes.

But that only seemed to wake up the Northland attack and they sprung to life one minute later when Fa'atonia Autagavaia finished off a blistering counter attack to pull the visitors ahead.

The lightning quick Northland back three of Dan Caprice, Matteo Malupo and Autagavia always looked dangerous with ball in hand and after a scary start Waikato did well to counter their attacking threat.

Marcel Cummings-Toone scored his first try for his new province in the 26th minute, giving the home side the lead before Mateo Malupo pulled Northland in front just after halftime - winning a footrace with Trent Renata to reach a loose kick which sat up in the Northland in goal area.

Moeke had an exceptional night with the boot, slotting four penalties and a conversion which made all the difference in the end, as both sides scored three tries.

O'Donnell produced a fantastic individual effort to score in the 72nd minute, before Pryor and Moeke combined to seal the match for Northland.

Northland host Manawatu next up on Wednesday while Waikato travels to Auckland for the first of three games they will play over eight days.

Waikato 27 (Matt Vant Leven, Marcel Cummings-Toone, Declan O'Donnell tries; Trent Renata 3 cons, 2 pen) Northland 29 (Dan Pryor, Mateo Malupo, Fa'atoina Autagavaia tries; Ash Moeke 4 pens, con). HT 17-14


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