The Bay of Plenty Steamers have produced another impressive performance against Premiership opposition, but ultimately could not go the distance against North Harbour, going down 32-20.
Both sides won their first two games of the season, but went into this round five match, at QBE Stadium in Albany, looking to break their respective losing streaks and get their season back on track.
Losing experienced campaigners Mike Delany and Tanerau Latimer to injury during the game did not help the Steamers' cause as they struggled to earn enough possession to create scoring opportunities.
The opening 10 minutes of the match were scrappier than Scooby-Doo's nephew, with both side's struggling to hold onto the ball. They traded penalties and the score was 3-all.
Twenty minutes into the half Steamers winger Fa'asiu Fuatai invited pressure, knocking on from a kick inside his own half. North Harbour went on the attack from the resulting scrum, eventually winning a penalty on the left wing inside the 22m. This time they kicked for touch and went for the try.
From the lineout, Harbour set up a maul and it was text book stuff as they drove over the Steamers and hooker James Parsons fell over the line to score. Gatland converted from the left-hand side for a 10-3 lead.
North Harbour had the momentum and the Steamers, playing into the wind, were battling to get out of their own half.
However, Bay of Plenty have won praise for their eagerness to work hard this season and it paid off when, after several phases inside North Harbour territory, the veteran Delany straightened up and crashed over to score from close range.
He converted his own try, his 50th points of the 2018 season, and with seven minutes left in the half the scores were locked at 10-all.
North Harbour threw everything at the Steamers' defence late in the half, but a pass went to ground allowing Steamers winger Liam Steel to swoop in and race away.
He was tackled just outside the North Harbour 22m, but won a penalty which Delany kicked for a 13-10 lead.
Bay of Plenty looked likely to take the lead into halftime, but minutes later North Harbour showed what they can do with ball in hand when a free-flowing attacking move resulted in halfback Bryn Hall scoring on the right-hand side for a 15-13 lead at the break.
The Steamers suffered a big loss at halftime with Delany, who had scored all 13 of his side's points in the first half, succumbing to injury. He was replaced by reserve first five Jason Robertson.
North Harbour had all the possession and territory after the break and 10 minutes into the second half extended the lead to 18-13 with a penalty.
North Harbour continued to dominate possession, but struggled to find a way over the try line. Steamers halfback Luke Campbell, in his first start this season, did an excellent job with the boot, kicking his side out of trouble on numerous occasions.
However, with 18 minutes to play, North Harbour put together phase after phase inside the Bay of Plenty 22m and it paid off when they shifted the ball left, where winger Tevita Li made the most of an overlap to score in the corner. Gatland converted from the sideline to make it 25-13.
The Steamers came back strongly and 67 minutes into the game they hit back. They had numbers on the right, inside the 22m, and fullback Chase Tiatia summed up the situation perfectly to put prop James Lay over in the corner. Robertson converted and with the score at 25-20 it was game on.
The comeback was not to be, however, as with six minutes left to play Gatland hit a big gap inside the 22m to score next to the posts. He converted the try to extend the lead to 32-20 and deny Bay of Plenty a bonus point.
Next for the Steamers is a match against Waikato in Rotorua on Friday night.