Unfortunately for Northland, a sublime first 10 minutes doesn't win you a game of rugby.
The Taniwha started with so much promise at Yarrow Stadium yesterday afternoon when they took on Taranaki in New Plymouth, only to fall, 52-19. To make matters worse, five Northland players succumbed to injury to add to an already five-man injury list.
Chief among the injured players was reserve first five Daniel Hawkins, who replaced Scott Gregory in the 56th minute. The talented pivot lasted only about five minutes until he was strapped to a stretcher and driven from the field after fracturing his tibia (shin).
All early signs pointed to a win for the Cambridge Blues after a heap of possession and territory led to birthday boy Ross Wright scoring in the sixth minute. Converted by first five Jack Debreczeni, Northland led 7-0 for about the next 10 minutes. But that was when it all went wrong for the Taniwha.
The Bulls, playing for the first time in front of a home crowd this season, racked up 52 unanswered points in 60 minutes in a very physical encounter which left both sides battered and bruised.
Apart from one glaring error in the second half, Northland fullback Scott Gregory put in a good performance for the visitors as he ran hard at the line and made numerous breaks.
Reserve halfback Harrison Levein, who had been out with injury, made his debut for Northland and looked good in the second half.
Northland went into halftime down only 14-7, which might have been considered a lucky escape with the amount of ball Taranaki had in enemy territory. However, a classy first 10 minutes played contrast to a broken 30 minutes which offered little hope of a fightback for Northland fans.
Bulls' players Jackson Ormond and Sean Wainui picked up doubles as the home side ran in nine tries in total. Northland, who to their credit, never gave up as they scored two consolation tries through Renata Roberts-Te Nana and Corey Te Whata-Colley in the final minutes, but there was little the visitors could do to redeem the performance.
The game was the second 33-point losing margin of the season for Northland after a 43-10 loss to Auckland in their game in Whangārei on August 15.
"We played rugby for 30 minutes and that was about it," Northland coach Derren Witcombe said.
"[Taranaki] scored 90 per cent of their points off our mistakes so we've just got to stick to our guns and have some belief and not try and push the issue because there were far too many unforced errors."
Witcombe applauded his side for their good work but he accepted the number of unforced errors needed reducing in their next game against Hawke's Bay on Saturday at Semenoff Stadium (kickoff at 5:05pm).
Taranaki 52 (J.Ormond 2, S.Wainui 2, TT.Tahuriorangi, T.Vaa'i, D.Waite, J.Potroz tries; D.Waite 6 con) Northland 19 (R.Wright, R.Roberts-Te Nana, C.Te Whata-Colley tries; J.Debreczeni 2 con) HT: 14-7