Saturday was crunch time for the Hikurangi Stags and the Portland Panthers premier teams in their bids to secure the coveted fourth place spot in the Rugby League Northland Premiership table.

With the big three Takahiwai, Otangarei and Moerewa, virtually assured of playoff spots the opposing teams at Hikurangi went into the match placed fourth and fifth respectively with Portland having a more favourable points differential and recent good form.

Stags' intention was clear from the outset when coach Steve Rau donned a playing uniform to show his younger players how it was done.

The visitors were jumped early by a reinvigorated home side. Racing out to notch up two tries in the first 12 minutes, the Stags showed they were prepared to use the ball and boot to stretch the opposition's defence.


It was the third try that seemed to have sealed it. After working the visitors back from limited time in their red zone, the last ball option went through many hands before being sent back at pace to the left, where it arrived in the hands of rugged second rower Dixie Harris.

A step inside foiled the Portland winger before lurching left again to exploit the flank and have a straight run to the line.

Following this try Portland managed some rare time in the hosts' 20 metres and finally executed a try to prop Eltion WiHongi which his standoff Kass Wall converted before scoring one of his own, leaving the score teetering at 12-10 before letting another try to the Stags to give them an eight point advantage at the half time hooter.

Hikurangi restarted with the same pace as the first half and within five minutes had scored two more converted tries to create a formidable margin on their opposition.

Portland managed to cross twice but when Michael Salase was caught out stripping the ball from a Stags runner right on the line Match referee Vern Nathan had little choice but to sin bin him for a professional foul.

Hikurangi then ran in two more tries against the reduced Portland side.

One of those tries to hard-working youngster Cyrus Edwards who has impressed in his debut season in the Premier grade having represented the Northern Swords 18 year olds earlier in the year, leaving Portland with a bye next week to reassess their chances.

Meanwhile Moerewa Tigers put on yet another attacking masterclass as they beat Northern Wairoa Bulls 76-30, while Otangarei Knights comfortably accounted for Hora Hora Broncos 48-16.