Waikato claimed a last-ditch 27-19 bonus-point victory against Northland on Saturday that pushes them right into the play-off mix.
Waikato claimed a last-minute 27-19 bonus-point win against Northland on Saturday that pushes them right into the Air New Zealand Cup play-off mix.
Victory propels the Mooloo Men into fourth position on the standings due to their superior record over Hawke's Bay after second-half tries from Aled de Malmanche, Sosene Anesi and Dwayne Sweeney's late effort sealed their maximum.
Northland had in fact held a 19-10 half-time lead but Waikato's strength and speed in the second period saw them come away with the spoils.
The visitors' early lead was thanks to Damien Fakafanua's try coupled by general all-round dominance, as they kept their superiors on the back foot for large parts of the first 40.
Lachie Munro's four penalties also did the job in keeping them out in front, but the class of Waikato seemed to be warming to the occasion and it didn't take too long for them to add to Anesi's first-half effort, one of two tries for him on the day.
The second period was then all Waikato with hooker De Malmanche using his power to break through two tacklers. Northland did their best to stem the tide with more fine game-management, but it was only delaying the innevitable.
Vital turnover ball preceded a series of slick passes and when Anesi used his pace to push Waikato ahead, the ascendancy was certainly with the now clicking home side.
And that aforementioned class once again proved too much for Northland late on as Sweeney's bonus score gives the Mooloos extra confidence ahead of facing Auckland.
Tries: Anesi 2, De Malmanche, Sweeney
Con: Donald 2
Pen: Munro 4
Waikato: 15 Sosene Anesi, 14 Tim Mikkelson, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Callum Bruce, 11 Dwayne Sweeney, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Kevin O'Neill, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Hikairo Forbes.
Replacements: 16 Vern Kamo, 17 Latu Talakai, 18 Romana Graham, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Trent Renata, 22 Save Tokula.
Northland: 15 Jared Payne (capt), 14 Simon Munro, 13 Damian Fakafanua, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Lachie Munro, 10 David Holwell, 9 Luke Hamilton, 8 Cam Eyre, 7 Matt Clutterbuck, 6 Roy Griffin, 5 Cam Jowitt, 4 Daniel Goodwin, 3 Karl Haitana, 2 Mikaele Tuu'u, 1 Matt Wallis.
Replacements: 16 Tim Dow, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Matt Harrison, 19 Eroni Gadolo, 20 Rhyan Caine, 21 Nick Collins, 22 Troy Woodman.
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)