Northland opened their ITM Cup campaign with a shock 26-19 win over Taranaki in New Plymouth on Thursday, outscoring their hosts three tries to one.
Defensively, the Taniwha were too strong for the home side who were forced to rely on the boot of Willie Ripia - the Taranaki pivot kicked a conversion and four penalties for a 14-point haul.
Flanker Dean Budd, right winger Simon Munro and left winger Lachie Munro scored tries for Northland, with the latter kicking a conversion and three penalties.
All Black squad member Rene Ranger was a stand-out playing at centre for the visitors, breaking tackles and making a number of penetrating runs.
Taranaki had led 19-18 at half-time after the lead changed hands on five occasions, however it was Ripia's accurate goal-kicking that enabled the home side to edge ahead.
In a scrappy and error ridden affair, Northland fed off Taranaki's mistakes during the opening half when the home side missed 11 tackles and made 17 errors.
Lachie Munro and Ripia traded early penalties to give Taranaki a 6-3 lead but it was Northland that settled quickest when Budd pulled off a 60m intercept try in the 12th minute against the run of play.
Munro added the extras for a 10-6 lead which was reduced to a point when Ripia slotted his third penalty of the night.
There was nothing fortunate about Northland's second try when they stole a line-out nine minutes later. The ball was quickly ferried to Ranger, who set off on a long, angled run before he popped a pass for his wing Simon Munro to cross in the right-hand corner.
That seemed to spark the hosts and in the 30th minute they profited from turnover ball and although Jarrad Hoeata was hauled down just short of the line, flank Chris Walker was on his shoulder to pick up and dive over.
Ripia's conversion put the home side in front but in the final 10 minutes it changed hands twice more as the Taranaki pivot and Northland's wing exchanged penalties.
Northland snuck ahead shortly after the break when Lachie Munro latched on to another intercept and had just enough pace over 40m to reach the try-line.
Taranaki's frustrations were apparent in the closing minutes when Munro landed a 45m penalty to punish the hosts' ill-discipline and confirm the result.
Pens: Ripia 4
Tries: Budd, S Munro, L Munro
Con: L Munro
Pens: L Munro 3
Taranaki: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Andre Taylor, 13 George Pisi, 12 Jayden Hayward, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Ben Souness, 7 Chris Walker, 6 Jarrad Hoeata, 5 Craig Clarke (c), 4 James Broadhurst/Leon Power, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Laurence Corlett, 1 Shane Cleaver.
Replacements: 16 Timo Tutavaha, 17 Carl Carmichael, 18 Kane Barrett, 19 Samuela Vunisa, 20 Brett Goodin, 21 Isaia Tuifua, 22 Beauden Barrett.
Northland: 15 Jared Payne (c), 14 Simon Munro, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Aaron Bancroft, 11 Lachie Munro, 10 David Holwell, 9 Luke Hamilton, 8 Cameron Eyre, 7 Sam Barker, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Mark Burman, 4 Pat O'Connor, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 Mikaele Tuu'u, 1 Matt Wallis.
Replacements: 16 Tim Dow, 17 Paea Fa'anunu, 18 Roy Griffin, 19 Cameron Goodhew, 20 Rhyan Caine, 21 Iwi Hauraki, 22 Bryce Heem.
Date: Thursday, 29 July
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Referee: Garratt Williamson