Waikato went marching up the ITM Cup standings on Saturday thanks to a 45-33 victory over Northland in a thrilling clash in Whangarei.
Both sides picked up a bonus point as a total of ten tries were scored including a double for Mooloos scrum-back Brendon Leonard, who ended the match in hospital after a nasty clash of heads with Lachie Munro.
Waikato fly-half Stephen Donald was in deadly form, scoring a try and kicking four penalties and four conversions for a 25-point haul.
The sides touched down five times each in a evenly contested game. It was level pegging until Waikato pulled clear in the final quarter thanks to tries from impressive wing Henry Speight and Donald.
Speight was key to the Waikato win, playing a vital role in the creation of three tries before scoring one himself.
The result sees Waikato shoot up to third in the ITM Cup standings while Northland are in danger of missing the top seven as they now trail seventh-placed Wellington by six points.
The carnival atmosphere was ruined somewhat in the closing minutes when a mass scuffle broke out after a late hit by Waikato's Vern Kamo, who was sent to the bin.
Six tries where scored in a high-paced first half including four inside the opening fifteen minutes as both teams took the opportunity to attack in ideal conditions, giving Waikato a 22-20 half-time lead.
Leonard crossed twice and centre Save Tokula scored for Waikato while Mateo Malupo, Munro, and Cameron Eyre touched down for Northland..
The turning point of the game came near the hour mark when prop Nathan White grasped an intercept and off-loaded to Speight, who scored to give Waikato a sixteen-point gap.
Substitute Mikaele Tuu'u and flanker Dean Budd scored late tries for Northland but the hosts will rue Munro missing four out of five conversions.
Tries: Malupo, Munro, Eyre, Tuu'u, Budd
Pens: Munro 2
Tries: Tokula, Leonard 2, Speight, Donald
Cons: Donald 4
Pens: Donald 4
Yellow card: Kamo (Waikato-72nd min)
Northland: 15 Lachie Munro, 14 Simon Munro, 13 Jared Payne (c), 12 Aaron Bancroft, 11 Mateo Malupo, 10 David Holwell, 9 Rhyan Caine, 8 Cameron Eyre, 7 Joel McKenty, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Mark Burman, 4 Pat O'Connor, 3 Bronson Murray, 2 Tim Dow, 1 Matt Wallis.
Replacements: 16 Mikaele Tuu'u, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Roy Griffin, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Adam Clarke, 22 Iwi Hauraki.
Waikato: 15 Trent Renata, 14 Sosene Anesi, 13 Save Tokula, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Alex Bradley, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Nathan White (c), 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Vern Kamo, 17 Ben May, 18 Matt Vant Leven, 19 Zak Hohneck, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Frank Halai.
Referee: Chris Pollock