Two tries in the last five minutes have consigned Northland to a 31-22 loss to North Harbour at Toll Stadium.

Both teams engaged in a territory war in the early stages as they utilised the boots of Solomon Alaimalo and Matt Duffie, with Harbour winning the early tussle through a Bryn Gatland penalty.

Northland have shown already this year they aren't afraid to chance their arm. Again they took the lineout option from handy goalkicking range and this time it didn't pay off.

However through the boot of impressive halfback Sam Nock, Northland remained in decent field position against their toughest opposition so far in 2017.


No. 8 Jaycob Matiu was proving to be more than a handful with some devastating hit-ups and with that impetus, Northland found themselves in space more often. Dan Hawkins tied the game up at the quarter mark, the score reflecting the tight nature of the match.

Northland continued to hammer Harbour on attack despite the best efforts of centre Matt Vaega and No. 8 Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa. Another Hawkins penalty goal was their reward for their toil.

Hawkins and Gatland again traded penalties true to first half form as while both sides were having their moments, discipline was letting them down.

Northland's loose forward trio continues to impress as Matiu, Dan Pryor and Jack Ram dominating the rucks.

A brilliant piece of enterprise from electric Harbour fullback Shaun Stevenson from inside his 22, a cross kick to Duffie, threatened to give his side the lead before the break but the last pass couldn't be controlled, leaving the scores even at the break.

Northland started the second spell at the right end of the field but the staunchness of Harbour's defence denied them early try-scoring opportunities with quick line speed and an ability to slow the ball legally at the ruck.

The game moved to the midfield from there as while both sides were trying different things neither could find enough space to add to the points tally.

Things seemed to be meandering along in the midfield before a bullocking run from Matiu broke the game open.

From the ensuing ruck Peter Breen found wing Jordan Hyland out in space before he cut back in to race 40 metres for a brilliant converted try.

Northland again were their own worst enemy in the discipline department as another penalty gave the deadly boot of Gatland the opportunity to reduce the gap to four, which he duly did.

Harbour found themselves with a bit of momentum and territory, taking full advantage of the chance with a 10 phase play finishing with a try to wing Tevita Li. Gatland missed the extras from the sideline to give Harbour a one point lead.

Northland immediately regathered the ball from the kick and were rewarded with a chance to take back the lead through a Breen penalty shot.

Breen calmly slotted the goal to give them a slender two point lead heading into the last eight minutes, setting up a grandstand finish.

Northland now had their tails up and again threatened Harbour's line but some great scrambling limited the damage to penalty goals. Unfortunately points were an expensive commodity at Toll Stadium.

Breen added his second to put the lead out to five just one minute after giving them the lead again.

Harbour weren't about to go quietly and again moved up the field with some strong runs. Northland defended admirably but replacement back Ben Volavola found a gap and tied things up.

Gatland calmly nailed the conversion to put Harbour up by two with less than three minutes to go.

Northland looked to attack to try take the lead once more but a Matt Vaega intercept try sewed things up for Harbour.

North Harbour 31 (Tevita Li, Ben Volavola, Matt Vaega tries, Bryn Gatland 2 con, 4 pens)
Northland 22 (Jordan Hyland try, Peter Breen con, 2 pen, Dan Hawkins 3 pens)