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The day began poorly for both sides with the late replacements of key players. For the Steamers it was their tighthead prop James McGougan replaced by Ted Tauroa who went on to have a tough night against Harbour’s Michael Reid. For the home team it was halfback Chris Smylie who was a late withdrawal with his long term hamstring problem giving him grief. This bought Nalu Tuigamala into the starting line-up for his starting debut, and what a night it was for the young star.
The Steamers problems got rapidly worse within the first 12 minutes as they lost three more players to injury and conceded 6 points through penalties to
The next Harbour try came only 4 minutes later. Again the space and front foot ball earned by the forwards created the space for Mike Harris to carve a run away through the Steamer’s midfield and float an inside ball back into space. Luke McAlister was flying through the angled channel opened up by Harris, caught the pass on his fingertips and scored under the bar. While the crowd took a moment to look around in disbelief at 18-0 on the scoreboard, the home team got straight back into their work and put another clinical try within minutes.
This third try was Tuigamala’s second. It typified the play of
The second half began with more urgency from the visitors. The contributions from Tanerau Latimer, Bourke and Delany led their effort as it was to for the remainder of the game, but generally it was hard to get continuity going when the ball wasn’t in either of their hands. The exception was 10 minutes into the second half when a left wing break resulted in a series of rucks on the
Both sides preferred to run the ball back at their opponents, putting away the aerial ping pong options. This meant a fast flowing game of skill and verve. Delaney was a mesmerising handful for the Harbour defence - his ability to step and fend off the defenders was brilliant to watch. When Bourke or Latimer were trucking through in support, the Bay were hard to stop and it was a credit to the North Harbour defence that his many jinking runs did not result in a try. The speed and kicking game of Bourke was an awesome sight as well – though he too was contained. For
The second half was studded with breaks, passing and tackles from both teams which thrilled the crowd. The spectacle, the sheer entertainment shown by the two teams continues a tradition of great running rugby between these two teams. It played out to the end with Harbour seeking the fourth and bonus point try, the Bay desperately after a way through the defence of the home team – and neither succeeding.
The Steamers came into the match with their hard-won reputation as contenders this year, but have left with that hope in tatters and their depth tested sorely.
Best on Ground:
QBE Insurance North Harbour: James King; Nalu Tuigamala; Ben Afeaki; Mike Mayhew; Anthony Boric; Luke McAlister; Rudi Wulf