Harbour smashed by devastating Manawatu

Yahoo!Xtra Sport / Mike Kilpatrick
Yahoo Sport

Manawatu has saved its best for last with a devastating second half performance to smash North Harbour 42-16 at FMG Stadium in Palmerston North.

The Turbos went in eight points down at the break but 34 unanswered second-half points provided the perfect end to the season as the visitors were simply out-run by a team with more skill and passion.

Winger Andre Taylor was the stand-out player on the park, contributing 27 points, including two tries, for the Turbos.

The only downside to the brilliant performance is doubts over Manawatu's future in the Air New Zealand Cup top division.

It's widely expected the Turbos will be one of four teams relegated this season but if this performance is anything to go by its brilliant brand of football will be missed if that comes to pass.

Meanwhile Harbour will be reflect on a season which promised much after its first-up win over Canterbury but ultimately didn't amount to anything.

And there was little to telegraph the exciting match ahead as both teams kicked early as they looked for territorial advantage.

North Harbour was first to strike after a scrum led to a penalty and Mike Harris converted.

Taylor missed with a penalty attempt as Manawatu started to exert control, but the pacey winger made up for it in the next phase of play with the first try.

Captain Nick Crosswell turned the ball over in midfield and a pass wide found Taylor on the burst and he outpaced Harris to touch down.

Harris put North Harbour back in the lead with a penalty in the 18th minute but there was a touch of fortune with the award - Aaron Cruden was penalised for a shoulder charge but there was nothing in the young pivot's tackle.

The visitors then scored their first try to seize control of the contest.

A lineout on half-way was won cleanly and the ball was spun wide.

A cut-out pass to Rudi Wulf looked a tad forward but the winger took advantage of a retreating defence to dummy and score. Harris converted.

The Harbour first-five then nailed a penalty from 55 metres to stretch the lead further after the Turbos were penalised for holding on.

With half-time nearing Taylor landed a penalty from out front to cut the lead but the visitors would have been the happier at the break with their deserved lead.

Harbour was first to show in the second half as it looked to keep up its record of never having lost to Manawatu but it was the Turbos who had the first scoring opportunity.

Unfortunately for the bucketheads in the crowd Taylor's penalty slid past the uprights.

The lack of television replays in the Air New Zealand Cup was highlighted again when Manawatu's Callum Gibbins touched down in the corner but the touch judge decided he'd broken the sideline before planting the ball.

The call may have been tough on the home team but there was some reward for its enterprise from the next period of play when Taylor landed his second penalty from wide right.

And after more pressure in the Harbour half the Turbos scored a deserved second try.

A cut-out ball from a ruck found Grant Polson and the prop did well after being tackled to find Rob Foreman on the charge and the hooker touched down. Taylor converted to put the hosts into the lead.

And the turnaround was complete just a couple of minutes later when Johnny Leota added another five-pointer for the home team but it was Cruden who deserved a lot of the credit.

His half break put the home team on the front foot and his wrap-around with halfback Aaron Smith created the space for Leota to break the line and score. Taylor converted.

Harbour pushed to get back into the game but when the ball was moved close to the Turbos' line it was picked up from an offside position and Manawatu cleared.

And with just 10 minutes left on the clock the Turbos guaranteed a first ever win over North Harbour with two scores in quick succession.

First Taylor landed a drop goal from 40 metres and then the winger chipped forward and outpaced a sleeping Nalu Tuigamala to score his second try. He converted to bring up 25 points for the match.

And then the Turbos really rubbed salt in Harbour's wound with its fourth try in a devastating second half.

Croswell came close to scoring in the left corner but the Harbour defence was struggling to cover and when the ball was pushed wide right Tomasi Cama had an easy run to the try-line. Taylor converted to end the scoring.

Manawatu 42 (Andre Taylor 2, Rob Foreman, Johnny Leota, Tomasi Cama tries; Taylor 2 pens, 4 cons, drop)
North Harbour 16 (Rudi Wulf try; Mike Harris 3 pens, con)

H/T: 8-16