Hawkes Bay fought back from 17 points down at half-time to run down Northland 31-26 as they booked their third win of the ITM Cup in Napier today.
The Magpies may have underestimated the Taniwha as they left first-choice players Alby Mathewson, Ash Dixon and Andrew Horrell on the bench for the contest.
Northland, inspired by pivot Daniel Hawkins and busy No 8 Jake Paringatai, took the visitors out to an unlikely early lead as the home crowd at McLean Park was silenced.
Paringatai scored the first try after a nice touch from the mercurial Rupeni Caucaunibuca, before Roy Griffin finished off some enterprising work from fellow flanker Daniel Pryor to bag Northland's second.
Hawkins had his radar working as he added conversions, penalties and a drop goal to ensure Northland took a healthy 23-6 advantage to the interval.
As Hawkes Bay's power-packed bench filtered in to the contest they eventually fought their way back though as Northland ran out of steam.
The fast-finishing Magpies were helped along by a controversial TMO call that awarded Zac Guildford a try in the 54th minute despite a lack of evidence that Guildford grounded the ball. This try sparked the home side's rescue mission.
Late efforts to Telusa Veainu and Richard Buckman ensured Hawkes Bay iced the victory and the refereeing errors may have been evened up as Dixon was seemingly denied a clear try as referee Kane McBride didn't event consult his TMO.
When Hawkins was then sent to the sin bin for a professional foul at the time Dixon seemed to have scored, Northland lost their way.
They managed to escape with a bonus point for losing within seven when Magpies No 10 Ihaia West missed a penalty as the hooter went.
Guildford was brilliant for Hawkes Bay in the second spell.
Congestion alert: The Championship division of the ITM Cup is certainly crowded. All seven teams are still in the playoff mix at the halfway point of the regular season. Those who can finish strong will be rewarded.
Aww, ref: This was a terrible weekend for sports officiating around the globe and despite television replays never showing any clear evidence of Zac Guildford grounding the ball, Hawkes Bay were awarded a second-half try at a crucial juncture, which swung the game. Maybe the TMO had X-ray vision?
Hawkes Bay 31 (Zac Guildford, Telusa Veainu, Richard Buckman tries; Ihaia West 4 pen, 2 con) Northland 26 (Jake Paringatai, Roy Griffin tries; Daniel Hawkins 3 pen, drop goal, 2 con) HT: 6-23