Playing against domestic rugby juggernauts Canterbury, not many would have bet on a different scoreline.

But while the result was perhaps expected, Northland's 42-12 loss to Canterbury at Semenoff Stadium last night was anything but ordinary as the visitors stumbled their way to a messy 30-point win.

In traditional Northland fashion, for this season anyway, the first 10 to 20 minutes went by with a hiss and a roar as both team's defences held strong and their attacks looked menacing.

Northland lock Sam Caird goes on one of his trademark busting runs through the Canterbury defence last night. Photo / Tania Whyte
Northland lock Sam Caird goes on one of his trademark busting runs through the Canterbury defence last night. Photo / Tania Whyte

However, it was the all-too-familiar errors at crucial times which hurt the boys in blue at regular intervals in a positive but disappointing performance from the Taniwha.

As with the other five games in this season, the Northland boys have played with plenty of heart and desire. Certain players across the squad have tried their guts out for the jersey which is all you can hope for from a team now on a five-game losing streak.

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It was the failure to execute basic skills which restricted Northland from making any real progress on the field and the scoreboard.

The obvious caveat for Northland's run of poor form and bad luck is the number of injuries the team is facing. Eight players were unavailable due to injury for this week's game, including captain Jordan Olsen and Blues forward pack members, Tom Robinson and Josh Goodhue.

As good as the home side's defence was in patches, they still conceded over 40 points which had been the team's average over the last five games. In fact, it only took about three minutes for the visitors to breach the Taniwha's defensive line down a problematic short side through winger Sam Gilbert.

A conversion from flyhalf Brett Cameron made it 7-nil and memories of the 80-nil towelling Canterbury handed Southland two weeks ago would have surely crossed the minds of some Northland fans.

Taniwha captain Sam Nock clears the ball from the ruck. Photo / Tania Whyte
Taniwha captain Sam Nock clears the ball from the ruck. Photo / Tania Whyte

However, Northland responded in the best way possible four minutes later after a sustained period of pressure on Canterbury's defensive line. A clever delayed pass from Northland first five Jack Debreczeni sent lock Sean Sweetman into a hole and crashing over the tryline, which levelled the score.

Apart from a slightly nippy breeze, a healthy crowd of Northland's rugby faithful were treated to a fairly comfortable night as far as the conditions were concerned. However, the visitors seemed to buckle under the weight of Northland's physicality with a number of injury breaks in the first 20 minutes.

The regular intervals made for a disjointed start to the game but it was the Northland boys who would have been happy as they were going toe-to-toe with the boys from down south.

A converted penalty to Cameron saw the visitors extend their lead by three but after a messy interchange of play between both teams, a costly drop from Northland midfielder Blake Hohaia saw Canterbury earn a penalty and then a lineout 12 metres from the Northland line.

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The resulting lineout drive saw hooker Brodie McAlister dot down and with a missed conversion, Canterbury led 15-7 with nine minutes to play in the first half.

A prime example of basic errors and dumb luck hurting Northland was on show five minutes before the break as Cameron put up a high ball which was misjudged by the oncoming Debreczeni around halfway.

Canterbury's defence dominance was on show for all to see, Northland's Sam Caird (right) seen here coming down unsuccessful in the lineout. Photo / Tania Whyte
Canterbury's defence dominance was on show for all to see, Northland's Sam Caird (right) seen here coming down unsuccessful in the lineout. Photo / Tania Whyte

The ball then ricocheted of the Northlander's knee and found its way right into the open arms of Canterbury try-scoring machine Josh McKay, who could not be stopped as he scored under the posts to make the score 22-7 in favour of the visitors at halftime.

Considering Canterbury left eight points out on the park thanks to a wayward night off the tee from Cameron, Northland could have been facing a 23-point deficit going into the second 40 minutes.

Nevertheless, the halftime statistics told a puzzling story of swaying momentum. With more possession and a minute more in Canterbury's 22-metre, Northland should have racked up more on the scoreboard, but thanks to six conceded penalties and less territory, it wasn't to be.

It only took five minutes for the visitors to add to their total in the second half as flanker Whetukamokamo Douglas scored from the lineout drive and a missed conversion made it 27-7.

Another converted penalty from Cameron took the score, shown on a scoreboard which featured the names Te Tai Tokerau and Waitaha in respect to Māori Language Week, to 30-7.

Sam McNamara, who played at blindside flanker for the Taniwha, was a strong ball-carrier. Photo / Tania Whyte
Sam McNamara, who played at blindside flanker for the Taniwha, was a strong ball-carrier. Photo / Tania Whyte

Time and time again, Northland showed great patience and skill to work their way up the field only to squander their chance to score just metres away from the touchline.

Northland finally succeeded in the 63rd minute with a smart play down the short side by Debreczeni saw him cross for his side's second try of the night to trail 30-12.

Exit play will be a key work on for Northland in the coming weeks as a number of sloppy exits saw Canterbury with ball in hand deep inside Northland territory off the back of some poor mistakes.

Such a mistake ended in Canterbury's fifth try to reserve winger Fergus Burke who received a well-judged cross-kick from Cameron to score in the corner in the 69th minute. About nine minutes later, lock Cullen Grace, playing in just his fourth game for Canterbury, crossed the line to push the winning margin to 30 points and what would be the fulltime score of 42-12.

Slow ball at the breakdown was one of the key inhibitors for Northland's attacking plays. Photo / Supplied
Slow ball at the breakdown was one of the key inhibitors for Northland's attacking plays. Photo / Supplied

Canterbury won't be satisfied by the skill level on display in Whangārei last night but to secure an emphatic win on the scoreboard will be as pleasing as it always is.

If there was one thing you couldn't fault Northland for, it's their consistency. Week after week, they show how much they want to be out there playing but for some reason, the effort does not translate into a win on the scoreboard.

Northland's road does not get any easier in the last four games of the competition with an away game against an in-form Bay of Plenty at home next Sunday, Wellington away, Tasman away and finally host Otago in the final round.

While more than two wins might be too much ask in 2019, if Northland can continue to play with strength and passion, this year's Mitre 10 campaign will not be without reward for the Taniwha.

Canterbury 42 (Sam Gilbert, Brodie McAlister, Josh McKay, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Fergus Burke, Cullen Grace tries; Brett Cameron 3 con, 2 pen) Northland 12 (Sean Sweetman, Jack Debreczeni tries; Debreczeni con) HT: 22-7