Mitre 10 Cup: Clinical first half sets up North Harbour victory over Wellington

North Harbour have made a statement to the rest of the Mitre 10 Cup premiership contenders with a quality 42-34 win over Wellington in Albany. 

The victory means a win next week over Canterbury will be enough to secure a semi-final spot for North Harbour. 

Karl Tu'inukuafe powered his way over the line in the third minute to give the home side the perfect start, bolting out to a 7-0 lead. 

Despite Wellington looking more likely to score next, it was North Harbour who crossed, Asaeli Tikoirotuma pouncing on a loose ball to set up Bryn Hall who found Shaun Stevenson who took the score to 17-0.

Stevenson was at his best just three minutes later, the fullback slicing through the defence to put the Lions on the backfoot, before a deft kick from Hall saw Matt Duffie run in untouched.

They continued to dominate throughout the first half, securing the bonus point in the 24th minute and Harrison Groundwater finishing off a clinical counter-attack from the hosts. 

Hall showed a touch of class in the next North Harbour try, chasing his kick down the right-wing to extend the score to 32-3.

The visitors managed to score a try before the break, lock James Blackwell crossing to give the Lions a small hope at half time. 

Any hope Wellington had was quashed just three minutes into the second half, Duffie scoring his second try of the night. 

Wellington needed to throw everything at the defence of North Harbour, trailing by 31 with just over 30 minutes to go.

And that's what they did, Vince Aso scoring out wide to cut the gap to 24. 

They continued to push on attack and ask questions of the Harbour line, Jackson Garden-Bachop slicing through to set up Kemara Hauiti-Parapara to score.

Sitiveni Paongo and Wes Goosen scored very late in the game to cut the score to eight with a minute to go, setting up a dramatic finish.

But it was too little too late, as North Harbour held on to claim their fourth win of the Mitre 10 Cup season. 

Wellington host Waikato next Saturday, while North Harbour travel to Christchurch to face Canterbury in the final match of the round next Sunday. 

Newshub.