The Bay of Plenty Steamers have moved into second place on the Mitre 10 Cup Championship ladder with a 27-19 win over North Harbour in Albany.
They have played three of their four crossover games against Premiership opposition now, putting them in a good position to push for top spot throughout the rest of the season.
The Steamers enjoyed a decent spell of possession early on in the match and made the most of it when flanker Mitch Karpik scored the opening try. After some patient build up they spun the ball left, Kurt Eklund was dragged down an inch from the line but Karpik was able to scoop the ball up and score. First five Dan Hollinshead converted to make it a 7-0 lead.
Eight minutes into the first half North Harbour hit back. Consecutive penalties helped them make their way up field before No 8 Lotu Inisi spun off the back of a maul and strolled through a big gap to score. First five Matt McGahan converted to tie the scores at 7-all.
The Steamers defence was looking a little unorganised and after 15 minutes North Harbour had their second try and the lead. McGahan threw a beautiful cut out pass to put fullback Shaun Stevenson over in the corner untouched. McGahan converted and North Harbour led 14-7.
It was quickly becoming a high-scoring affair and after 20 minutes the score was locked up again at 14-all, Joe Webber snatching an intercept and racing 50m to score under the posts.
Bay of Plenty were desperate to finish the first half with the lead and right on halftime they scored their third try. Eklund made a break on the right, channelled his inner back and chipped over the top. The Steamers got the ball back and lock Alex Ainley crashed over to score. Hollinshead converted and the Steamers led 21-14 at the break.
Bay of Plenty were dominant at the start of the second half. Hollinshead kicked a penalty and extended the lead to 24-14.
After such an open and free flowing first half, the second was a real contrast as the teams fought tooth and nail for momentum. With 17 minutes left to play, Bay of Plenty's Karpik was sin binned - paying the price for too many infringements by his side.
North Harbour made the most of the advantage and with 12 minutes left got themselves right back in the game, James Little slicing through a gap on the left hand side to reduce the deficit to 19-24.
It was a nervy final five minutes for the Steamers as North Harbour threw everything at them but they were able to hold on, Hollinshead kicking a penalty to complete a good day with the boot, making it 27-19 and preventing North Harbour from claiming a bonus point.