This match really was an epic.

The more the game wore on, the more confidence Northland gained and came away with a solitary point win against Ranfurly Shield holders Taranaki in the Mitre 10 Cup clash at Okara Park yesterday.

Pinpointing one moment from such a game seems amiss.

Take a bow Matty Wright. The Taniwha fullback took on the kicking duties and sent the one that mattered between the sticks with time almost up for the 18-17 win.


Read more: Rugby: Missed tackles and ill-discipline Northland B's Achilles' heel

It was the last act with tension at its peak.

The last time these teams met was in 2015 when Taranaki ran away seven tries to one in a 50-point pasting.

But the Taniwha held their nerve and forced Taranaki to concede a penalty at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

At times such was the see-sawing nature of this game that it needed a theme song.

Northland lock Josh Goodhue tries to burst through the tackle of Reuben O'Neill of Taranaki. Photo/John Stone
Northland lock Josh Goodhue tries to burst through the tackle of Reuben O'Neill of Taranaki. Photo/John Stone

Buoyed by their fans, Northland's performance had to be chalked up to a stunning display of ball-carrying grunt and a dominant scrum that sent the visitors backpeddling on most occasions.

Taranaki will rightly feel this was a real stinker of a performance that had a lack of discipline of all things with foul play and constant needling of the opposition.

It was energy-sapping stuff and the Taniwha knew if they could play well in both defence
and attack for the full 80 minutes, there was no stopping them.


Their defensive flashes were impressive and they were not afraid to put the shoulder in while defending their line.

What a difference one week can do and the home side will take a lot of confidence going into its next game, an away fixture on Friday against Otago in Dunedin.

What will irk Northland the most from yesterday's match was allowing Taranaki to score two tries off loose passes in the first spell when the home side were clunky on occasions.

They threw a few wild passes, dropped a few easy balls and forced things more than they needed to.

Latu Vaeno scooped a stray pass by Northland first five Jack Debreczeni when the hosts were hot on attack and raced 80m to score with no one at the back defending.

In a sweeping move preceding that try, Northland wing Tamati Tua had cut open the opposition defence and Ranger made a threatening run on the right flank but was chopped down.

Just when Northland thought they had parity with the visitors in almost all facets of play, they conceded a couple of penalties near the visitors' tryline.

They squandered three opportunities, including a move that saw Tua spill the ball on the tryline after receiving a long cut out pass from Debreczeni.

Blindside flanker Tom Robinson scored from the tightest of plays — a score the Taniwha needed heading to the breather if they had any chance of causing a boilover.

With his back to the goalpost but still on his feet, Robinson picked up the ball from a ruck, turned around and thudded it down under the sticks.

Taranaki skipper Mitchell Croswell and lock Jesse Parete did a power of work at breakdown to ensure their side had quick ball and momentum.

Just when it looked both sides were going to the sheds with scores, Manasa Mataele pounced on another loose pass to score at the back end of the first half.

Northland turned on the screws in the last quarter, hoeing in at the breakdown without wilting and just being patient with ball in hand and it paid divided.

Drifting just two points behind Taranaki, the crowd got behind their team and the Taniwha grew an arm and a leg and pounded so hard for so long the visitors gave away the crucial penalty with 30 second to go.