Northland scored 10 points in the final 10 minutes to beat Tasman in Blenheim today, the boot of Ash Moeke again proving crucial.
Northland had controlled a scrappy first half at Landsdowne Park but a Makos revival after the break swung the match in their favour. The Taniwha looked resigned to defeat when 17-10 down and Tasman growing in confidence but a piece of brilliance from wing Mateo Malupo, who scored an incredible individual effort from 40m, allowed Northland to equalise.
A long-range Moeke penalty would have handed Northland the lead but was just wide, however the first-five made no mistake from in front with a minute remaining - flanker Gary Redmond the villain for Tasman when he hooked the ball with his foot when offside at a ruck.
Billed as the entertainers in this championship division, Tasman looked like a team reading too many of their reviews and they turned in a mistake-ridden, over-ambitious first 40 minutes which left them with a 10-3 deficit at halftime.
It may have been too that their third game in a week was taking its toll.
However, with plenty of talent on the reserves bench, including Crusaders fullback Tom Marshall, and what was probably a very direct team talk, the Makos played with much more control after the break.
The sinbinning of Northland flanker Jack Ram for a professional foul in front of his posts helped the home side, who had narrowed the gap with a penalty and then quickly chalked up another and a try to Filipo Levi while Ram cooled his heels.
Try scorer Derek Carpenter and former All Black Rene Ranger had threatened for Northland, but it was the largely unheralded Malupo who created something from nothing and turned the match for the Taniwha.
Tasman (Filipo Levi try; Hayden Cripps 3 pens, Andrew Goodman pen)
Northland (Derek Carpenter, Mateo Malupo tries; Ash Moeke 2 cons, 2 pens)