Kini Naholo. Photo / Supplied
Winger Yarrows Taranaki Kini Naholo’s man of the match performance broke a two-game losing streak against Northland in Whangarei.
The 22-year-old scored two tries in the 48-14 win to claim back-to-back wins in the competition.
Taranaki led the championship division after two rounds with the performance of bonus points.
Northland was aiming for a record three-game winning streak at home against Amber and Black, but couldn’t stop a push in the second half.
Naholo, in a low voice, told Sky Sport he had had a terrible run with injuries, but was delighted to be back on the pitch.
“[It] regain confidence and it’s good to win today, “he said.
Naholo admitted that the squad knew each other well, along with several players from the area.
His speed and ability to break the line were key attributes of his performance. The Chiefs representative completed 88 yards of range, four line breaks and 10 broken tackles in an 80-minute effort.
His first try came from a stopped play on a lineout in Northland’s half of the field. Taranaki moved the ball freely in the back and put Naholo in space to slide into the corner.
The second try was created by full-back Stephen Perofeta, who held the ball and handed it late so Naholo could run.
He would have scored almost four tries if it hadn’t been for a kick from Liam Blyde and if Jesse Parete had passed just before the break.
Perofeta also shone in the game. The talented full-back scored 18 points off the tee in a 100% performance.
It took Taranaki half an hour to get into the game after being down 7-0. This was evident in the statistics at halftime as Northland spent more than five minutes camping inside the 22 visitors.
But Northland was rewarded with just one try to support Leka Tu’ungafasi.
After Perofeta’s first penalty kick, Taranaki got his straps back and hammered home.
They had a power play after Northland No.8 Isi Manu received a red card for a shoulder charge on Perofeta, the second red for Northland in as many weeks.
Taranaki captain Teihorangi Walden recognized the gap in the first half.
“In the second half we talked about finishing well, we can tick that box,” he said.
Northland capitalized on Taranaki’s mistakes in the first half, but Taranaki had to work hard to earn the right to go far, he said.
It also looks like the team is starting to solidify early in the competition. Walden said spending time together helps.
“We’ve been together for three years now and the boys enjoy their football. Good football comes from there.”
The other essays came from Daniel Waite, Ricky Riccitelli, Shaan Waite and Daniel Rona.
Enterprising play with good handling and patience was the key to almost all of the trials.
Most important was a 50-22 Perofeta just after half-time with a maul strike capable of giving Riccitelli a try. This gave Taranaki momentum to block the Northland defense with a slight breeze down his back.
The impact on the bench was also solid from Taranaki, with fresh leg keys from Shaan Waite and Rona at their five points.
Taranaki will face Waikato for the Ryan Wheeler Memorial Trophy on Saturday afternoon in Hamilton.
In the previous match, the Taranaki Whio lost to Northland 41-3 in the Farah Palmer Cup. Taranaki’s Chloe Sampson scored the only points for the visitors.
FINAL WHISTLE: Taranaki 48 (Kini Naholo 2, Daniel Waite, Ricky Riccitelli, Shaan Waite, Daniel Rona tries, Stephen Perofeta 6 against, 2 pens).
Northland 14 (Leka Tu’ungafasi, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa tries, Rivez Reihana 2con).