North Harbour have triumphed over the Tasman Mako 40-24 on Auckland’s North Shore.
The Mako were undefeated on the way to last year’s inaugural Mitre 10 Cup Premiership title and picked up wins against Counties Manukau, Northland and Waikato to kick their 2020 season off.
North Harbour, meanwhile, were yet to win a game this year, going down to Canterbury, Waikato and Southland.
Harbour was on the front foot right from the kick-off, however, with Bryn Gatland superb from the tee. Tasman struck first through a Mithc Hunt penalty but Gatland quickly followed up with two of his own, handing the home side a 6-3 lead.
Former Harbour wing Mark Telea, now a Mako, then grabbed an intercept try but that didn’t hamper Harbour’s momentum, with the Hibiscus pushing out to a 16-10 lead at halftime.
Despite the obvious firepower in the Mako side, the travellers’ discipline sorely let them down. Tasman conceded 20 penalties in the match with Harbour being pinged just nine times. Shortly after the break, the Mako were reduced to 13 men for repeated infringements.
A second intercept – this time to Blues halfback Finlay Christie – kept Tasman in touch, but Harbour piled on the points late in the second half through Luteru Tolai, James Little and Teague McElroy.
Gatland was the man-of-the-match, nailing all eight of his attempts at goal, preventing the Mako from ever mounting a fightback.
The victory marked Harbour’s first win over Tasman since 2013.
Harbour captain Ethan Roots was proud of the effort his team had put in following the game.
“We’re pretty stoked,” Roots said. “We’ve been a bit low but we came together as a unit this week and we changed a lot of things. Obviously, we’ve seen a positive shift and we want to keep that rolling forward.
“We put a big onus on our pack to just go out there and do the job, and that’s pretty much what we did today.”
Roots was hopeful that the superlative performance of things to come.
“That’s what we talked about this week, turning the season around. We thought this was the perfect team to do it against and really make a statement to the rest of the competition.”
Next week, North Harbour host Hawke’s Bay while Tasman will try to bounce back at home against Bay of Plenty.
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