Mitre 10 Cup: Tevita Li bags four tries for rampant North Harbour

North Harbour have eased clear of the premiership relegation zone and kept their faint semi-final hopes alive with a dominant Mitre 10 Cup win over Taranaki in New Plymouth.

The result left the home side mired at the foot of the table, with only two more games left to escape the drop to next year's championship.

Harbour needed only two minutes to open the scoring, with centre Daniel Hilton-Jones intercepting to dash away and first-five Bryn Gatland converting. Wing Tevita Li stretched that advantage with the first of his three first-half tries.

Blistering speed from wing and sevens specialist Regan Ware offered Taranaki some momentary respite, as he sprinted 60 metres for a brilliant solo try, but the shift of momentum was only temporary.

A try to Matt Duffie and two more to Li extended the lead beyond reach, and Harbour arrived at half-time 36-12 ahead.

Gatland had played a significant hand in two of Li's tries, kicking wide to bamboozle the defence for one and executing a long skip-pass for another.

The visitors continued to pile on the pressure after the break, with Li adding a fourth try to his tally and flanker Daniel Hunt a second. Only isolated glimpses of individual skill from fullback Beaudein Waaka and lock Jesse Parate offered Taranaki any relief from the onslaught.

"The biggest shift for us was we just took the game in 10-minute blocks," said Harbour skipper James Parsons. "We weren't trying to think of the outcome.

"We've probably been too caught up in scoring four tries to get the five points and getting the win, rather than just focusing on what's in front of us - it's a massive shift.

"We let in a few soft tries from attack opportunities that didn't go to plan, but other than that, once we're set in our systems, we're pretty confident we can make tackles.

"We knew we had to shut down number 13 [Seta Tamanivalu] - he has a big game every week - and we managed to do that for 60 minutes."

Harbour still need the teams ahead of them to stumble, if they hope to return to the premiership semis, but at least they are now safe from relegation, 12 points clear of last-placed Taranaki.

They face Counties Manukau - also below them on the premiership standings - next Saturday, while Taranaki visit Canterbury later that same evening.

North Harbour 55 (Tevita Li 4, Daniel Hunt 2, Daniel Hilton-Jones, Matt Duffie, Mark Telea tries; Bryn Gatland five conversions) Taranaki 26 (Regan Ware, Manasa Mataele, Beaudein Waaka & Jesse Parate tries; Waaka three conversions)


Contact Newshub with your story tips: