Waikato continued their fine form from last weekend when they closed out North Harbour 36-27 in a thrilling ITM Cup game in Albany.
Waikato continued their fine form from last weekend when they closed out North Harbour 36-27 in a thrilling ITM Cup encounter in Albany on Saturday.
Following their thrashing of Counties Manukau last week, the Mooloo Men snared a fourth win and provide further evidence they will challenge strongly for this year's title.
North Harbour, meanwhile, suffered their fourth loss in six matches and will need to start winning games from here on in to avoid the drop into next year's First Division.
The lead changed hands four times in the first half hour before Waikato grabbed an advantage they weren't to relinquish, going on to dominate most facets of the game and score four tries to three to reflect the competition standings of both teams.
Brendon Leonard, Dwayne Sweeney, Christian Lealiifano, Dominiko Waqaniburotu all scored for the Mooloos, while Ben Afeaki, Alipate Fatafehi, and James Parsons crossed for the home side (Waikato led 28-20 at half-time).
North Harbour fly-half Mike Harris landed five-from-five with the boot but his side failed to score for the final 37 minutes, with their last points coming via a try to hooker Parsons to reduce the margin to one point.
However, a try to stand-out lock Dominiko Waqaniburotu with 15 minutes on the clock sealed victory for Waikato, capitalising on a slick counter sparked by Brumbies star Leali'ifano.
The final pass was thrown by replacement back Richard Kahui, playing the last half hour in his first match since injuring his shoulder with the All Blacks two months ago.
For North Harbour:
Tries: Afeaki, Fatafehi, Parsons
Cons: Harris 3
Pens: Harris 2
Tries: Leonard, Sweeney, Lealiifano, Waqaniburotu
Cons: Renata 2
Pens: Renata 4
North Harbour: Alipate Fatafehi, Jack Tarrant, Luke McAlister, Nafi Tuitavake, Michael Harris, Chris Smylie, Richard Mayhew, Malakai Ravulo, Matt Luamanu, Anthony Boric, James King, Ben Afeaki, James Parsons, Michael Reid.
Replacements: Manu Leiataua, James Afoa, Filo Paulo, Scott Uren, Nalu Tuigamala, Ben Botica, Brendon Watt.
Waikato: Tim Mikkelson, Save Tokula, Christian Lealiifano, Dwayne Sweeney, Trent Renata, Brendon Leonard, Steven Setephano, Jack Lam, Liam Messam, Dominiko Waqaniburotu, Toby Lynn, Nathan White, Aled de Malmanche, Ben May.
Replacements: Vern Kamo, Hikairo Forbes, Romana Graham, Matt Vant Leven, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Richard Kahui, Sam Christie.