Waikato picked up their third win of the season against North Harbour in tricky conditions, winning 22-16 in Albany on Saturday.
Rising star Damian McKenzie was on-song with the boot, kept in a kicking battle with North Harbour fly-half Matt McGahan as both players knocked over eight penalties between them.
The New Zealand U20 star signed a three-year deal with the Chiefs this month and went well in torrid conditions, on a night for keeping it tight rather than playing wide.
A slippery ball and high number of handling errors didn’t exactly come as a huge surprise.
David Raikuna’s opening try for the hosts epitomised the scrap, the wing chipping over the defence and putting Albert Nikoro in a torrid position as the bouncing ball skidded across the wet turf. Raikuna was the first man to get hands to the ball and score.
McKenzie opened his account with a 45-metre strike before two quickfire penalties against North Harbour for being offside helped him put Waikato ahead at 9-7.
Both number tens traded further penalties before one of them eventually missed, McKenzie wide of the mark ahead of half-time.
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna however ensured Waikato did take some points into the dressing room as he crashed over from close range, McKenzie converting for a 19-10 half-time lead.
The second half though was all about North Harbour; McGahan rising to the challenge with two penalties as Waikato repeatedly infringed.
All Blacks scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow was brought off the bench to settle things down but Harbour continued their assault either side of McKenzie’s fifth penalty.
Pressed to defend on their own line, Waikato eventually lost Tameifuna to the sin-bin for an offence under the posts (after an unsubtle push on referee Glen Jackson) as Harbour patiently waited for their chance. Bryn Hall’s knock-on however brought their best chance to an end.
Heroic defence from Waikato, enough to secure a valuable win.
For North Harbour:
Pens: McGahan 3
Pens: McKenzie 5
Yellow Card: Tameifuna
North Harbour: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Pita Ahki, 12 Niko Ratumaitavuki, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Matt McGahan, 9 Bryn Hall (c), 8 Jim Tuivaiti, 7 Zak Judge, 6 Jordan Manihera, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Mike Farmer, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Greg Pleasants Tate.
Replacements: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Adrian Smith, 18 Brandon Nansen, 19 Mario Ozich, 20 David Bason, 21 Daniel Halangahu, 22 Luke Devcich.
Waikato: 15 Albert Nikoro, 14. Declan O’Donnell, 13 Chauncy Edwardson, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Joe Webber, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Adam Burn, 7 Zak Hohneck, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Jacob Skeen, 4 Luke Katene, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Loni Uhila.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell. 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Nick Ross, 19 Zane Kapeli, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Wharenui Hawera, 22 Regan War
Referee: Glen Jackson