Home town fans had gathered to celebrate the Northland Ranfurly Shield-winning side of 1970 but they ended up enjoying another great day of local rugby history.
Northland now sit in third place with a game in hand in the Evens Conference, on 18 points, behind Canterbury on 26 and Auckland on 21.
Waikato is on top of the Odds Conference on 21 points with a game in hand over Hawke's Bay on 19 points and Bay of Plenty on 17, also with an extra game to play.
Bunnings NPC Round Five results:
Canterbury 35 North Harbour 22 (Wednesday)
A North Harbour mid-field lapse opened the path for wing Ngatugane Punivai to get through the defence to run in the opening try. A failed penalty touchfinder from North Harbour was punished on the opposite flank when Canterbury put centre Dallas McLeod over. Then after four goal-line rucks, halfback Willi Heinz seized his moment and dived over for Canterbury's third.
North Harbour opened their scoring with a try under penalty advantage from goal-line drives as lock Felix Kalapu showed his strength in scoring. Then, after Heinz had a second try ruled out, North Harbour got down the other end and from a lineout move prop Tevita Langi scored under the posts. Canterbury prop Tamaiti Williams won't score an easier try than when riding his side's luck to run over from a breakdown five metres out from the line. Harbour had late reward from a move that wasn't as accurate as desired but did allow wing Tika Lelenga to get across in the corner.
Canterbury 35 (Ngatugane Punivai, Dallas McLeod, Willi Heinz, Tamaiti Williams tries; Alex Harford 3 con, 3 pen) North Harbour 22 (Felix Kalapu, Tevita Langi, Tika Lelenga tries; Shaun Stevenson 2 con, pen). HT: 25-10
Manawatū 26 Tasman 36
Tasman wing Leicester Fainga'anuku made his presence felt when he came into the line from the blindside to take an inside pass from hooker Andrew Makalio, to shatter the home defence after only three minutes. Similar defensive weakness was exposed after Manawatū knocked on near halfway and the ball went out to wing Macca Springer, who relished a platform to demonstrate his skills. He broke the line then passed out to fullback Taine Robinson to run in the try. Before the half was complete, Springer chimed in from the blind to once again break the line with ease and run in from 40m for a try. His second try was much easier on the end of Havili's long pass. The forwards set the seal with lock Quinten Strange scoring.
Manawatū were not without their credits. During the Tasman first-half blitz they responded when halfback Luke Campbell sniped around a ruck, linked inside with wing Ed Fidow who then fed first five-eighths Brett Cameron for the try. Then close to fulltime, Manawatū came back with two consolation tries, the first to Tima Fainga'anuku while replacement wing Adam Boult capped an entertaining night from an end-to-end try, initiated by fullback Drew Wild on a weaving centrefield run. Two cross-kicks to the wings were involved, and it was Wild who kicked the second for Boult to score.
Manawatū 26 (Brett Cameron, Sio Maile, Tima Fainga'anuku, Adam Boult tries; Cameron 3 con) Tasman 36 (Leicester Fainga'anuku, Taine Robinson, Macca Springer 2, Quinten Strange tries; Willy Havili 4 con, pen). HT: 12-24
Northland 23 Auckland 22
Hooker Matt Moulds got over at Northland's second attempt for a lineout maul try. Then they turned the scrum pressure on Auckland and first five-eighths Rivez Reihana added the extras from the penalty. A long ball allowed wing Tomas Aoke to open Auckland's account and in injury-time they returned the lineout drive tactic to Northland and it was hooker Robbie Abel who scored.
Northland refused to lie down and they scored an outstanding backline try with quick hands providing wing Heremaia Murray with the chance to show off his speed in a thrilling sideline dash for the try. However, Northland conceded a penalty try at a five-metre scrum for Auckland to take a 19-13 lead. Murray wasn't prepared to sit back and ran into the line from the blindside after Northland secured a lineout turnover. He made easy space after fending off Plummer, gave fellow wing Jona Macilai-Tori a run and when the breakdown occurred, quick ball saw replacement hooker Bruce Kauika-Petersen running back on the angle in midfield to score a lovely try. Plummer got three points back with a penalty goal to reclaim the lead, but after Reihana missed a 48-metre shot in the 77th minute, he landed a killer in the 79th from 46m to claim a famous win as Northland's outstanding season continues.
Northland 23 (Matt Moulds, Heremaia Murray, Bruce Kauika-Petersen tries; Rivez Reihana con, 2 pen) Auckland 22 (Tomas Aoke, Robbie Abel tries; Penalty try; Harry Plummer con, pen). HT: 8-12
Taranaki 6 Waikato 21
Not the happiest return to Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth but first five-eighths Daniel Waite offered early hope with a long-range penalty goal landed from within Taranaki's half. Frustrated by Taranaki's goal-line defence Leuila lobbed a chip at the line and got over for the try. Waite rounded out the half with another goal from 48m.
Waikato marksman Damian McKenzie had the chance to put the tailwind to his use when landing a 46m penalty goal to edge Waikato four points ahead. He landed one from 15m to extend the lead to seven. Taranaki kept attacking but in their haste into the last five minutes, they threw the ball one time too often and wing Mosese Dawai got the intercept, looked like he was going to loose the slippery ball before pulling it in and running 15m for the try that sealed the game.
Taranaki 6 (Daniel Waite 2 pen) Waikato 21 (D'Angelo Leuila, Mosese Dawai tries; Damian McKenzie con, 3 pen). HT: 6-7
Southland 28 Wellington 41
Southland had every reason to feel confident when leading 13-7 with five minutes of the first half left. But, two tries to Wellington took the game out of reach before halftime. It had taken 24 minutes for Wellington to make its mark, courtesy of a lineout maul try to hooker Asafo Aumua. Southland responded with their relentless pick-and-go approach on the Wellington line for prop Morgan Mitchell to score. But finally getting their act together with some classic combination play between the Wellington forwards and backs flanker Sione Halalilo crossed. Then a clever outside break by first five-eighths Aidan Morgan created a hectare of room on the left flank and his draw and pass provided fullback Conor Garden-Bachop with the easiest of tries.
Morgan was rewarded in the second half when stationed wide and securing the ball where his speed saw him across in the corner. Aumua was rampant at times, whether running like a wing down the sideline or emerging from mauls with the ball, as when he set up Nehe Milner-Skudder's first try. Milner-Skudder scored another, but it was Southland who finished stronger with two late tries; the first after a pick-and-go fest with prop Quinn Harrison-Jones scoring while the last, to flanker Blair Ryall, was initiated by an outstanding backline break by fullback Robbie Robinson.
Southland 28 (Morgan Mitchell, Quinn Harrison-Jones, Blair Ryall tries; Robbie Robinson 2 con, 3 pen) Wellington 41 (Asafo Aumua, Sione Halalilo, Conor Garden-Bachop, Aidan Morgan, Nehe Milner-Skudder 2 tries; Morgan 3 con; Garden-Bachop con, pen). HT: 13-21
Canterbury 32 Hawke's Bay 28
The Ranfurly Shield holders Hawke's Bay should have had this one in the bag when leading 25-8 heading into the final quarter after tries by wings Lolagi Visinia and Ollie Sapsford and halfback Brad Weber. Instead, Canterbury showed brutal determination to take advantage of the Bay's concentration wavering. Strong tackles knocked Hawke's Bay and resulting loose ball provided Canterbury with the opportunities they didn't hesitate to take.
Canterbury's recovery started with replacement back Isaiah Punivai joining the line to create a gap with clever footwork to score. Two minutes later, a turnover saw Canterbury pounce on loose ball as replacement halfback Willi Heinz timed his offload perfectly for No8 Billy Harmon to score. Suddenly, Canterbury were only three points down and three minutes later that was dealt with by first five-eighths Fergus Burke landing a penalty goal. Five minutes from time Weber kicked a penalty goal for the Bay. However, a kick he made from the base of ruck went directly to touch and Canterbury worked the ball to the line and another short pass from Heinz to flanker Tom McLeod who scored the match-winner with two minutes to spare.
Canterbury 32 (Ngatungane Punivai, Isaiah Punivai, Billy Harmon, Tom Christie tries; Fergus Burke 3 con, 2 pen) Hawke's Bay 28 (Lolagi Visinia, Ollie Sapsford, Brad Weber tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con, 2 pen; Brad Weber pen). HT: 5-13
Otago 27 Bay of Plenty 33
Bay of Plenty gained a valuable win away from home when finally breaking free of Otago's clutches at Forsyth Barr Stadium with first five-eighths Kaleb Trask landing penalty goals in the 74th and 78th minutes to secure the win. Otago started well with wing Sam Gilbert making light of the Bay defence to score the opening try. But as was the case on the day the response was prompt with wing Emoni Narawa scoring in the corner to be followed five minutes later by one of the Bay big men, lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit, from a lineout maul. Rickit and locking partner Justin Sangster caused problems all day for the home side, although Otago first five-eighth Cameron Millar's goal-kicking gave them a 13-10 halftime lead.
Lock Josh Hill capped some good play from wing Vilimoni Koroi and flanker James Lentjes to extend Otago's lead only to see the Bay respond when claiming the restart and seeing second five-eighths Inga Finau break the line and set up a ruck which, when the ball was cleared provided Narawa with his second try. Bay of Plenty opened out and Sangster scored in the 56th minute before Koroi replied for Otago to see the scores locked at 27-27 with 18 minutes to play.
Otago 27 (Sam Gilbert, Josh Hill, Vilimoni Koroi tries; Cameron Millar 3 con, 2 pen) Bay of Plenty 33 (Emoni Narawa 2, Manaaki Selby-Ricket, Justin Sangster tries; Kaleb Trask 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 13-10
North Harbour 37 Counties Manukau 12
Speed of thought and hand proved vital for North Harbour in Albany, especially in the final 10 minutes of the first half when they scored three tries to take a 22-7 lead to the break. Counties Manukau scored the first try when hooker Penesoni Fineanganofo crossed from a lineout maul. In the 30th minute, North Harbour used their lineout maul to advantage to set up ball for first five-eighths Bryn Gatland to pitch a cross-kick in the direction of wing Tevita Li. He leapt high to secure the ball and manage to turn to get the ball down for a spectacular response. Wing Mark Telea featured in two breakout runs, the second ending when an inside pass to second five-eighths Henry Taefu saw him stretch out in the tackle to get the ball down. To round out the half, it was halfback Jamie Booth who capped some outstanding teamwork with a try that saw Telea featuring again.
Counties Manukau scored first after the break with wing Tevita Ofa's try but they couldn't break the home resistance and again it was the latter stages of the half that saw Harbour score through Telea who pulled out a dive to go over at the corner and the final act came with a penalty try in the last minute.
North Harbour 37 (Tevita Li, Henry Taefu, Jamie Booth, Mark Telea tries; Penalty try; Bryn Gatland 2 con, 2 pen) Counties Manukau 12 (Penesoni Fineanganofo, Tevita Ofa tries; Riley Hohepa con). HT: 22-7