Taranaki hold off spirited Northland

Date published: September 18 2014

Taranaki moved to the top of the ITM Cup table after claiming a hard-fought 31-20 victory over Northland in Whangarei on Thursday.

Taranaki moved to the top of the ITM Cup table after claiming a hard-fought 31-20 victory over Northland in Whangarei on Thursday.

The Amber and Blacks battled initially, against their less illustrious opponents, but gained the upperhand as the game progressed.

Northland showed why they are in joint-top spot in the Championship and their visitors were under pressure for large periods, especially during the early stages when the hosts dominated.

Northland suffered an early setback when Jone MacIlai was sent to the sin bin, in the seventh minute, for a spear tackle on Kurt Baker, who was forced off the field after injuring his shoulder in the tackle.

Taranaki took the lead via a Marty McKenzie penalty, shortly afterwards but the hosts were unfazed and soon took took the lead despite playing with 14 men.

Brooke Gilmore crossed over for the the opening try after running onto a pass, inside Taranaki's 22, from Dan Hawkins who also slotted the conversion.

Taranaki struck back with another McKenzie penalty in the 21st minute and were soon in the lead thanks to a Seta Tamanivalu try on the half-hour mark.

Tamanivalu got an easy run-in in the left-hand corner after Taranaki had taken the ball through 12 phases in the build-up.

This gave the visitors a 11-7 lead at the interval. The second half saw the visitors upping the ante, but, despite their efforts, Northland didn't surrender.

Northland scored the first points of the second half via a Hawkins penalty but Cody Rei struck back shortly afterwards with a three-pointer of his own and for the next 15 minutes the game was still evenly poised at 11-10 to the visitors.

They eventually extended their lead when McKenzie crossed over for their second try, after fine interplay between forwards and backs but Hawkins reduced the defic with another penalty three minutes later.

Taranaki thought they had sealed the match after Blade Thomson scored their third try in the 70th minute but there was still plenty of action to come in the final 10 minutes.

Macilai scored Northland's second try, after good work from Mathew Wright in the build-up and when Hawkins added the extras the Amber and Blacks were holding a slender four-point lead with score at 24-20.

But to their credit, they didn't panic and managed to secure a bonus-point and the win when Waisake Naholo scored in the left-hand corner three minutes before full-time.

Taranaki's win means they move above Canterbury into the top spot in the standings, although the men from Christchurch have two games in hand with a three-point deficit.

The scorers:

For Northland:
Tries: Gilmore, Macilai
Cons: Hawkins 2
Pen: Hawkins 2
Yellow card: MacIlai (seventh minute, illegal tackle)

For Taranaki:
Tries: Tamanivalu, McKenzie, Thomson, Naholo
Cons: McKenzie
Pen: McKenzie 2, Rei

Northland: 15 Mathew Wright, 14 Latiume Fosita, 13 Brooke Gilmore, 12 Troy Gilbert, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Dan Hawkins, 9 Tane Takulua, 8 Cam Eyre (c), 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Dan Pryor, 5 Tom Murday, 4 Shane Neville, 3 Namatahi Waa, 2 Matthew Moulds, 1 Ross Wright.
Replacements: 16 Howard Sililoto, 17 Will Griff John, 18 Michael Stolberg, 19 Miracle Tulua, 20 Kurt Davies, 21 Warren Dunn, 22 Whiria Meltzer.

Taranaki: 15 James Marshall (c), 14 Kurt Baker, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Berny Hall, 6 Mitchell Crosswell, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Riki Hoeata, 3 Ryan Cocker, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Sione Lea, 17 Angus Ta'avao, 18 Mitchell Brown, 19Iopu Iopu-Aso, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Jackson Ormond, 22 Codey Rei.

Referee: Grant Stuart

By David Skippers