A terrific effort from Northland's Under-19 team saw them get over the line 22-16 in thrilling fashion against a Heartland XV on day two of the Jock Hobbs Memorial National U19 tournament in Taupo.
After a 23-22 loss to Southland on Sunday, Northland coach Mark Wells said yesterday's win brought much relief. "They switched on and came out firing, they wanted it bad," Wells said.
"I was concerned the boys weren't going to get up for it, they seemed a bit down the last few days, but the vibe was really there at the start of our warm-up and the leaders really stood up."
Starting well, Northland managed to match the Heartland side's 6-0 point lead early on via two penalties and a converted try from first five-eighth Thomas Smith.
Up 13-6 at halftime, Northland's lead was then overcome as the Heartland side came back firing with a quick try and a few penalties. Intercepting a loose pass, the Heartland XV then began to dash Northland's hopes of a win at the tournament. However, Wells' team had different plans.
"They stuck together, stuck to their structures and competed hard," he said. "For the tournament we've tried to be a side that's hard to score against.
"They hate being scored on and just ran themselves into the game to win that one.
"Heartland were pumped up and fired up - full credit to them, they hadn't been together that long and they played quite well."
Standing out for Northland, Wells said the efforts of Tiaki Smith, Jevon Halvorson, Tom Stevens and Louis Ward helped his side close out the match.
With a couple of Super Rugby coaches watching Northland's win from the sidelines, including Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, the extra incentive to perform could see them secure another win when they take on Bay of Plenty this Saturday.