Taranaki hold on for win vs Northland
Experienced Taranaki captain Craig Clarke was almost made to pay for his decision to search for a bonus point instead of take a shot at goal at Toll Stadium tonight.
Clarke, who led the Chiefs to their first Super Rugby title this season, turned down a shot with less than 10 minutes left as he opted for an attacking lineout.
While Taranaki were leading 29-17 at that stage Clarke must have been worried under the posts as Northland replacement Dan Caprice scored with five minutes left to bring Northland within five points.
Unfortunately for the home side they conceded a penalty from the kick-off and Clarke didn't make the same mistake twice.
It was lucky for the visitors, too, as Northland second five-eighth Derek Carpenter scored with 90 seconds remaining.
Northland would be kicking themselves as some of their indiscipline which allowed Taranaki's Frazier Climo to land six penalties in what proved a faultless kicking display because they outscored their more fancied opposition four tries to two.
The win, Taranaki's fifth of their campaign moved them up to second on the NPC premiership ladder, a point behind Auckland.
Taranaki coach Colin Cooper would have just been happy to leave Whangarei with four points after they took a hammering at Eden Park on Wednesday.
Taranaki took a 16-7 lead into the break on the back of a try to fullback Kurt Baker and three Frazier Climo penalties.
Anyone arriving late at the stadium would have missed the ground announcer working his way through the late changes for Northland as coach Adriaan Ferris was forced to bring in six players who were originally not listed, including in-form pivot Ash Moeke.
Some of the players might have hoped some in the crowd did not know who they were as both sides made numerous errors despite perfect conditions.
Baker's try, and one from Northland halfback Tane Takulau aside, the action was interrupted by players failing to get the basics of the game right.
Fourteen penalties in the first 40 minutes did not help but multiple phases were rare.
Taranaki had much the better of the chances but Climo was pushed into touch on two occasions while they let themselves down with poor execution.
Northland were in the same boat, as passes went to ground on the back of good lead-up work.
Thankfully the second half improved, although referee Ben Skeen had the most influence in the match, blowing 29 penalties.
Taranaki 32 (Kurt Baker, Frazier Climo tries; Climo 6 pens, 2 cons) Northland 31 (Tane Takulau, Rene Ranger, Dan Caprice, Derek Carpenter tries; Orene Ai'I con, pen, Matt Wright 3 cons). HT: 16-7.