Bay of Plenty 27
Substitute Latiume Fosita stepped off the bench to hand Northland an nail-biting win over Bay of Plenty in Tauranga tonight.
Neither side managed to separate themselves at any stage of an entertaining encounter and a draw looked on the cards in the closing stages. But Fosita emerged from the bench to win the game in the 78th minute and lift Northland into a share of second spot in the second tier.
The wins keeps Northland in the hunt for a home semifinal while the Bay, who really needed to win if they wished to remain in the playoff race, were instead left rooted to the bottom of the ladder.
The Steamers looked good value for much of the match to repeat the previous night's upset win by fellow cellar-dwellers North Harbour, but the home side were constantly let down by handling errors.
They started the match exceptionally well, with Sonatane Takulua's early opener quickly cancelled out. The Bay appeared galvanised from falling behind and, through tries from Siaosi Iongi and Joe Royal, the Steamers were soon in front.
Both came from lineout drives, meaning 14 of the Bay's 18 tries this season have been scored by the forwards, but Northland soon hit back through a bit of backline spark. The Taniwha had been struggling to make inroads due to a lack of possession, a statistic in which they've been second-best all season, but that changed when the individual brilliance of Takulua netted the halfback a brace.
After Dan Hollinshead and Dan Hawkins exchanged penalties in the second spell, Tim Bond and Warren Dunn swapped tries to leave the match level. And that's the way it stayed until Fosita snatched the spoils for the Taniwha.
Bay of Plenty 27 (Iongi, Royal, Bond tries; Hollinshead 3 cons, 2 pens)
Northland 30 (Takulua 2 tries, Dunn; Hawkins 3 cons, 2 pens, Fosita pen)