Taniwha captain Sam Nock is hoping to find some pride in the jersey and finish the season strong after the Northland men's rugby team registered a heavy loss to Bay of Plenty yesterday.
In their Mitre 10 Cup fixture at Semenoff Stadium yesterday, Northland failed to overcome a rampaging Bay of Plenty (BOP) side, losing 46-22 in stunning conditions in Whangārei. The loss saw Northland's losing streak climb to six consecutive games in contrast to Bay of Plenty's five wins, which saw them second on the championship ladder.
In a broadcasted post-match interview, Nock said a fast start from the visitors hurt the home side and even when BOP were reduced to 14 men after a red card in the 54th minute, the Taniwha still couldn't capitalise.
"It's disheartening when [BOP] have 14 men and 30 minutes to go and we still couldn't manage to score," he said.
"It's credit to [BOP] but it's disappointing to us."
Nock admitted his team didn't execute appropriately in those crucial moments which allowed BOP to dominate the scoring. With nine players out with injury before yesterday's game, Nock said the younger players still showed promise for the future.
"There's a lot of injured boys at the moment, but I guess we've just got to finish strong with these last few weeks and find a bit of pride in the jersey."
Northland Rugby could not provide a player or member of the coaching staff to comment further on the game before last night's deadline.
Speaking after the game, BOP captain and prop Aidan Ross said he was happy to come away with a win in a city which he described as "one of the hardest places to win in New Zealand".
"We knew if we gave [Northland] a sniff, we were going to be into a bit of a dog-fight there, so we had to be pretty clinical at the start and put them away as early as possible," he said.
"At times, it looked like there was a whole lot of razzle dazzle done from the backs there, but I think that just came from the forwards laying a good platform first and building those phases for those spots to open up."
Ross commended the performances of second five Chase Tiatia and winger Emoni Narawa, who were destructive with ball in hand, tearing Northland's defence open with relative ease.
With a tough contest against championship leaders Hawke's Bay to come next, Ross hoped his side's run of good form would continue for the regular season's remaining three games.
In Northland's six losses in six games, the Taniwha conceded an average of 42.8 points per game and scored an average of 19.3 points. Over their seven games, Northland have scored only three more points overall (143) than the competition's lowest scoring team, Manawatu (140). Northland have conceded the most points across the competition (274), seven points more than the second-worst Southland (267).
Northland now sit at the bottom of the championship table, two points below Southland with two away games against Wellington, Tasman and a home game against Otago to finish the season.
Bay of Plenty's electric form was evident from the first minute against Northland yesterday evening as they immediately put the home side under pressure. After a couple of drives at the Taniwha line, the Steamers opted for a penalty and led 3-nil after 10 minutes.
Northland first five Jack Debreczeni levelled the score quickly after a penalty of his own, but the next 20 minutes belonged solely to the visitors who ran in three tries courtesy of flanker Hugh Blake, centre Matt Garland and winger Emoni Narawa.
This saw BOP ahead by 22-3 with just minutes remaining in the first half. The visitors' midfield was as potent as any the Taniwha had encountered this season, particularly the experienced Chase Tiatia at second five and superb prospect Narawa on the right wing.
Despite the rapid concession of points, Northland recovered well to put together a great backline move which saw a delightful inside ball from second five Blake Hohaia connect with winger Renata Roberts-Te Nana who put on the gas to score in the left-hand corner. With a Debreczeni conversion, that made the score 22-10 with 10 minutes left in the first half.
The try seemingly kicked Northland into gear as they spent the remainder of the half putting pressure on BOP's defensive line. However, through a combination of solid defence and poor execution, Northland couldn't reduce the deficit before going into the sheds.
Tiatia and Narawa starred again in the second half as they combined to set up a try for fullback Cole Forbes after 47 minutes. This was followed by a try to Tiatia himself three minutes later, which saw the score balloon to 34-10.
Bringing on a raft of changes after about 50 minutes and a try soon after to captain Nock, Northland looked like they had caught a break when BOP's Fa'asiu Fuatai was awarded a red card for a no-arms tackle on Roberts-Te Nana.
But the one-man advantage paid little dividend for the home side as BOP went on to score in the 58th and 61st minute through Narawa and Garland respectively. It wasn't until the 77th minute when Northland finally crossed the BOP line through replacement halfback Harrison Levien.
Northland next play Wellington in Wellington on Saturday, kickoff 5:05pm.