The Otangarei Knights claim the Rugby League Northland Minor Premiership for season 2017 by a single competition point as they, and their closest rivals the Takahiwai Warriors, won away from home in the final round of the local league.

Both teams competed for the coveted title as well as the Anthony Murray Memorial trophy awarded to the winners of the second round.

Otangarei travelled to Hikurangi and were challenged all the way by the Stags to notch up the 40-22 victory.

While Takahiwai were hoping the Hikurangi Stags could cause an upset against Otangarei, they too had their work cut out in their local derby to edge a flattering scoreline of 24-4 against a stoic Portland on a heavy track.


The recent rains had predetermined a forward dominated performance at the Portland grounds notorious for cutting up at this time of year.

Junior matches between both clubs that had been arranged to curtain raise and celebrate the much anticipated derby had to be cancelled because of ground conditions.

The track down the middle of the field was the preferred route for Portland forwards Josh Poasa and Eltion WiHongi and Takahiwai's big men Mike Hauraki and Jordan Hool returned the favour with the latter scoring at the quarter mark.

However it was Nick Schuster's early work in the No 8 jersey that saw him barrel across the line to score the first try before Hool followed suit.

Match referee Ian Collis used plenty of whistle in the first half to control the play of the ball area as both sides tested gamesmanship in an attempt to gain advantage.

Portland's hooker Mauriki Pari scored in their first attacking set after the half time break to stake a claim in a potential comeback but the score remained unchanged at 12-4 for thirty more minutes and the match provided an entertaining arm wrestle and an evenly contested struggle.

A crucial drop ball by the Portland winger as they were working their way out of the red zone gave the visitors and much needed opportunity to put young centre Taine Shelford across with five minutes to go and realistically put the game out of reach.

Industrious second rower Charles Taurau brushed the post pads on his way across the line minutes later as the hooter sounded, bringing the curtains down on Portland's season.

The final match was contested with Hora Hora Broncos travelling to Dargaville to lose 34-20.

An intriguing play-off series begins next Saturday at Toll Stadium as first and second place Otangarei and Takahiwai play off for the direct route to the Grand Final while Moerewa will face off Hikurangi in the knockout semifinal.