NPC 2021: All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith leads Manawatu to emphatic win over Northland

Manawatu have eased to a comprehensive 31-19 win against Northland in their National Provincial Championship clash at Palmerston North.

Bolstered by a rare appearance from All Blacks star Aaron Smith, the Turbos shot to an early lead and never relented, keeping the Taniwha at arm's length throughout a one-sided contest.

The test centurion has opted out of the Rugby Championship - and likely the subsequent northern tour - to stay in New Zealand for the birth of his second child, and the All Blacks' loss is clearly the Turbos' gain, as Smith caused havoc around the edges of the ruck in his third appearance in two years for his home province.

The visitors managed to add some respectability to the scoreboard with late tries, but the result was never in doubt, as the Turbos consolidated their second-place standing on the championship ladder.

After a pair of early penalties from Brett Cameron, blockbusting wing Ed Fidow rampaged 50 metres down the sideline for Manawatu's first try.

Five minutes later, a clinical set-piece move saw No.8 Brayden Iose dot down under the crossbar, helping the hosts to an imposing 20-0 lead at halftime.

Northland came out of the sheds with renewed vigour, scoring twice within three minutes, as wing Jone Macilai-Tori finished in the left corner, followed by substitute Jonah Mau'u, who was on the end of a sweeping 60-metre movement.

But Manawatu were soon across the chalk again, through wing Taniela Filimone, essentially shutting the door on any chance of a comeback with less than eight minutes remaining.

With the fulltime hooter seconds away, Northland bulldozed over next to the posts from a close-range ruck for a consolation try.

Manawatu will try to continue their winnings ways, when they host Otago next Saturday, while Northland return to Whangarei to face surging Waikato on Friday.

Manawatu 31 (Ed Fidow, Brayden Iose, Taniela Filimone tries; Brett Cameron 2 conversions, 4 penalties) Northland 19 (Jone Macilai, Jonah Mau’u, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa tries; Johnny Cooper 2 conversions). HT: 20-0.