North edge the South in a thriller
Will Jordan turned it on in the 84th minute to steal a 38-35 win for his South Island side in the interisland clash in Wellington on Saturday.
North v South: North Player Ratings
North v South: South Player Ratings
An outstanding game offered skill, speed and excitement as the traditional rivalry was renewed in an all-action encounter.
The South took a 17-14 lead to the break thanks to the quick thinking by prop Nepo Laulala at a goal-line ruck when the ball emerged as there was the slightest of spaces in front of him. He grabbed the ball and put it in that space to score.
Jordie Barrett also made the most of a sweet pass from hooker Codie Taylor to dive in the corner with the North also producing some magic. The first came just two minutes after the start when wing Caleb Clarke made a powerful break which set up a chance which was capped by centre Rieko Ioane who powered his way to a try.
A well-worked move down the short side with Ioane linking with fullback Damian McKenzie who found hooker Asafo Aumua on the sideline saw TJ Perenara link up with Damian McKenzie to score an outstanding try.
More sparkling handling led to the North reclaiming the lead as McKenzie's initial thrust allowed No 8 Hoskins Sotutu to race ahead before finding McKenzie still in support inside him. McKenzie then had replacement halfback, Aaron Smith, inside him and he scored.
McKenzie looked to set his backline alight but as Clarke attempted to keep the ball in play, it fell to his marker Jordan and he raced 40m to score.
Moments later Jordan was involved again, this time with second five-eighths Jack Goodhue and Jordie Barrett before the ball was moved to centre field where replacement prop Tyrell Lomax ran a superb line to take the South out to a 31-21 lead.
The transfer of McKenzie to first five-eighths saw the momentum lift again in the North backline and he featured twice in a move that produced Ioane's second try. Firstly, Clarke was fed into a huge gap, and then Ioane was able to run from depth to take the ball, and a gap to pull the margin back to three.
Just to prove they could pour it on up front, the North reclaimed the lead with some power play, much of it from prop Ofa Tuungafasi who had been recalled to action. But as the ball was worked it was replacement hooker Ash Dixon who won the seal of approval to score.
The South worked themselves into a position to seal a win, but they ran into the worst person possible to get past, Ardie Savea who was over the ball in a flash and winning a crucial penalty on the goal-line.