Northland brought such a compelling mix of everything that defines rugby that they went about destroying Manawatu with a touch of disdain.

Even the Okara Park faithful on Friday evening weren't able to stomach the way the Turbos so meekly fell out of contest in the opening stanza, in the end losing 49-19 in the Mitre 10 Cup fixture.

Taniwha supporters got their money's worth in the first half when the home side led 34-12 after scoring four tries, courtesy of the visitors playing some dumb rugby.

Alas, Manawatu turned a bad season into a horror one and made everyone think how on earth could things get any worse.

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In their last four matches, the men from Palmerston North have conceded a whopping 174 points and are on course to finish cellar dwellers in the Championship section if Friday night's shambles is anything to go by.

For the Taniwha, their talent had never been in question but their ability to use it wisely and effectively had.

Lock Josh Goodhue charges upfield during the Mitre 10 Cup match between Northland v Manawatu at Okara Park. Photo/John Stone
Lock Josh Goodhue charges upfield during the Mitre 10 Cup match between Northland v Manawatu at Okara Park. Photo/John Stone

But something sparked in them and they were able to pounce on almost any opportunity that fell their way against Manawatu.

They looked like a side loaded with weaponry in the backline, and a pack that played with a muscularity and bite that far exceeded the sum of their individual parts.

Northland's ability to turn defence into attack had a massive influence on the outcome and workaholic Tom Robinson and halfback Jono Kitto were at the forefront of those endeavours.

Robinson alone was worth the admission ticket and had he not been subbed off injured inside the first quarter, Manawatu's misery would have become even deeper.

Apart from the opening seven minutes, when the Turbos showed good ball retention and scored the opening try through wing James Tofa, they began falling off tackles and losing the battle at breakdown.

Jordan Hyland scores in the corner despite the effort of two Manawatu defenders to stop the speedy Northland wing. Photo/John Stone
Jordan Hyland scores in the corner despite the effort of two Manawatu defenders to stop the speedy Northland wing. Photo/John Stone

Enter Robinson, Josh Goodhue, Matt Matich and Rene Ranger into the fray and they made the opposition defence look cardboard-like, with a potent mix of explosive running and slick handling that could have netted a couple more tries.

Rugby was the winner at Northland's spiritual ground and what better way to promote the game in the region than a complete performance against a side the Taniwha hadn't beaten in seven years.

The three tries Northland scored in 10 first-half minutes swung the momentum in their favour.

Matich scored his first try this Mitre 10 Cup season when he peeled off a wheeling scrum and carried Manawatu halfback Kane Hammington on his back to the tryline.

Minutes later, Kitto made a scything run off a ruck and a cross kick found Ranger, whose backhander found Jordan Hyland.

Multiple phases of play saw captain Jordan Olsen muscle his way to the tryline, ably aided by Kane Jacobson.

Hyland got the third try with a dash down the right flank before first five-eighth Jack Debreczeni held up the ball and sliced through some sloppy tackling.

Kara Pryor's 80m run, carrying the ball like it was a crown jewel, with Manawatu wing Michael Tagicakibau hot on his heels, was the signature try of the night.

Tagicakibau couldn't hold on to an Otere Black pass and Matty Wright latched on to the ball, although it appeared he had knocked it on before offloading to Pryor.

TMO Llew Smart ruled there was inconclusive evidence of a knock on and the try stood.

Pryor's smile at the favourable ruling was as wide as the Whangārei Harbour.

There was more of a good old-fashioned hiding that awaited the visitors.

Sloppy defence was Manawatu's major Achilles heel.

Their ball carriers also couldn't dominate the collisions, or not enough of them anyway, to generate the relentless quick ball as they were rattled and a touch frustrated by the pressure Northland exerted.

The tempo of the game slowed a bit in the third quarter but Taniwha fans didn't care a jot, as long as their team was getting front foot ball and the scoreboard ticking along nicely.

Northland have moved into the top four with 11 points and host Southland at 7.35pm on Thursday.

Scorers
Northland 49
(Matt Matich, Jordan Olsen, Jordan Hyland, Scott Gregory, Kara Pryor, Blake Hohaia tries, Jack Debreczeni try, 4 con, 2 pen) Manawatu 19 (James Tofa, Junior Laloifi, Adrian Wyrill tries, Sam Malcolm con, Otere Black con). HT: 34-12.