North Harbour scored 26 unanswered second-half points to claim a remarkable 35-23 victory over Otago in Albany on Thursday.
Both sides scored two tries but it was first five-eighths Ben Botica and second-five Luke McAlister who punished Otago for their constant infringements at the breakdown.
The home side was horrible in the first half and it was only a half time rev-up from coach Craig Dowd that saw them sharpen up and nullify their handling errors.
Otago has now lost all four matches to start the season, while Harbour has two wins and two losses.
McAlister was shifted into the No.10 role for the final 20 minutes to play close match out.
North Harbour right-wing Alipate Fatafehi and second five-eighths McAlister both looked to plug the corners, but instead their kicks went dead and out-on-the-full in what would be the start of a huge first half error rate from the home side.
Harbour’s scrum buckled under pressure in the wet conditions, which gave Otago first five-eighths Glenn Dickson a 53-metre penalty attempt that he nailed. Dickson’s opposite Botica answered straight back when visiting captain Alando Soakai found himself offside.
The pivots traded two further three-pointers as mistakes ruined any consistent phase play or ascendancy.
Up-the-guts pick-and-drive momentum from the Otago pack saw replacement prop Halani Aulika sneak through some weak fringe defence to crash over for the first try. Dickson converted.
Otago had two tries in two minutes after a restart error was snapped up by Ben Smith. The centre put in an intelligent grubber for speedy wing Joe Hill to collect. Dickson again slotted the extras that had his side out to a 20-6 lead after 28 minutes.
Harbour had a rare outing in Otago’s 22 and Botica closed the gap with his third successful penalty, but Dickson closed out the first-forty with his fifth nudge as Otago took a 23-9 lead to the sheds.
Botica punished two additional Otago infringements as the No.10 pulled his side within eight (23-15).
Quick ruck ball stretched the Otago defence, lock James King went through a gap and dished an inside ball to flanker Malakai Ravulo whose left-foot step sent him over the whitewash. Botica converted to make it a one-point deficit (22-23).
Brendon Watt replaced Botica, meaning McAlister shifted into the playmaker role. His first job was to knock Harbour into the lead as Otago’s penalty count began to cost them (12-5).
The visitor’s ill-discipline continued, McAlister nailing his second to stretch out the advantage to 28-23 with 15 minutes to play.
Ravulo claimed a brace and McAlister converted on full-time to finish the match in style for the home side.
North Harbour(Malakai Ravulo 2 tries; Ben Botica, Luke McAlister con, Botica 5, McAlister 2 pen)Otago (Halani Aulika, Joe Hill tries; Glenn Dickson 2 con, Dickson 3 pen).