Waikato assumed the premier position in Pool B of the New Zealand Cup with a 42-21 trouncing of Northland.
At the conclusion of round one of the competition, they have 24 points, one more than early pacesetters Otago, who are on a bye this weekend. As table toppers they earn two home games in the next round. Auckland top Pool A.
The hosts were never troubled by Northland, despite having flyhalf Stephen Donald sent off early in the second half for a second high tackle, his initial yellow card coming in the 15th minute of the match.
A try within 60 seconds for centre Richard Kahui, his first of three, signaled Waikatoâ€™s intent to play an attack-minded game. Northland winger Rene Ranger rushed out of the defensive line and created the overlap on the outside for Kahui to touch down.
Two penalties in quick succession by David Holwell left his side trailing by one point but Waikato soon restored a comfortable lead after a period of sustained pressure.
Kahuiâ€™s second came from a well work backline move that saw him take the ball flat and at pace from Richard Hill in the opposition 22, and make the linebreak. The youngster had a clear run in to the line and the score was duly converted by Hill in front of the posts.
Northland struggled all game to harness the hard running Waitako backline and insightful play by Sonene Anesi, who came infield of his wing to create an overlap, secured Roy Kinikinilau his first and the teamâ€™s third try of the match.
Despite Donaldâ€™s second half sending off, Waikato continued to put Northland under pressure. Liam Messam secured the bonus-point after Kahuiâ€™s surging counterattack down the left wing left the defense scrambling. The move broke down in the 22 but multiple phases left Northland without the defensive numbers to stop Messam scoring.
Tries by Dwayne Sweeny and Kahuiâ€™s hattrick late in the second half sealed the win, despite Northland adding respectability to the scoreline through tries by Dan Bowden and David Gibson.
Tries: Richard Kahui (3), Roy Kinikinilau, Liam Messam, Dwayne Sweeney,
Coversions: Hill (6)
Tries: Daniel Bowden, David Gibson
Conversion: David Holwell
Penalties: Holwell (3)
Results from NZ Cup
North Harbour 28- 6 Manawatu
Bay of Plenty 20- 16 Taranaki
Waikato 42 – 21 Northland
Southland 15 â€“ 11 Hawkes Bay