A late late drop goal by Ben Botica handed North Harbour a 25-24 win over Northland in Whangarei on Sunday.
Harbour had trailed 21-6 just before the break, but whatever was said at half-time had the desired effect and Botica, ably backed by Luke McAlister, led the comeback, which culminated in 21 phases of play before Botica's late show.
Northland scored three first-half tries. The first came from wing Bryce Heem, capitalising on excellent work from Aaron Bancroft and Jared Payne.
The second came from veteran fly-half David Holwell who fed off a fine run by Heem, and the third was finished off by Dean Budd after some excellent forward marshalling from scrum-half Luke Hamilton. There could have been more but Bronson Murray and Pat O'Connor wasted chances.
Two penalties from Michael Harris were all North Harbour had to show for their first half to then, but they were getting back ito the game, with flanker Matt Luamanu impressive.
Right on the stroke of half-time Luamanu was on hand to support Harris' break and finish off for a crucial score.
Harbour kept chipping away at the lead with a further penalty from Harris.
Midway through the second half both sides were looking to land the killer blow. Northland number eight Cameron Eyre opened up the opposition defences with a fine run from the base of a scrum which drew support from Hamilton but his pass wasn't able to find support. But then McAlister charged onto well set up ball and looked to chip ahead and collect but his kick rolled over the dead ball line.
The loss of lock Anthony Boric to the sin-bin for a goal-line offence allowed Munro a penalty goal chance which he landed in the 66th minute to take Northland to a 24-16 lead. That was trimmed by three when replacement first five-eighths Ben Botica landed a penalty goal in the 70th minute, then came another and finally, the dramatic winning drop goal.
Tries: Heem, Holwell, Budd
Con: Munro 3
For North Harbour:
Pens: Harris 3, Botica 2
Drop goal: Botica
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 Dan Pryor, 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 Ross Wright, 18 Roy Griffin, 19 Cameron Goodhew, 20 Rhyan Caine, 21 Iwi Hauraki, 22 Bryce Heem.
North Harbour: 15 Jack McPhee, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Brendon Watt, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Alipate Fatafehi, 10 Michael Harris, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Richard Mayhew, 7 Scott Uren, 6 Tom Chamberlain, 5 Shane Neville, 4 Matt Luamanu, 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 James Parsons, 1 Michael Reid(c).
Replacements: 16 Mike Mayhew, 17 Taione Vea, 18 William Whetton, 19 Malakai Ravulo, 20 Nalu Tuigamala, 21 Ben Botica, 22 Jack Tarrant.
Referee: Ben Skeen