Full-time: North Harbour 22-42 Waikato
After starting slowly the visitors worked their way into the match to finish with a scintillating second-half that all but blew North Harbour off the park.
That said, Harbour showed enough to point towards them being capable of being there at the business end of the competition but their defence let them down today.
Harbour had some stand-out players - particularly halfback Hall and five-eighth Hobbs, while their midfield looked very potent with the ball in hand.
Waikato just grew in confidence and their backs came into their own in the second 40 to make a real statement in the opening round of the ITM Cup.
The Mooloo Men host Northland next Saturday while North Harbour
look to get things on track when they travel to face
76mins North Harbour 22-42 Waikato
TRY! Waikato's replacement hooker Kalem Chan Boon finds himself on the end of a flashy but structured try in the lefthand corner. It started with forward drives near the posts before Leonard sparked some quick hands out to the wing. Renata misses his kick from close to the sideline.
72mins North Harbour 22-37 Waikato
TRY! Harbour's replacement halfback Brendon Helleur burrows over from the base of a ruck to score a well-deserved try with the hosts refusing to yield even though the game and result has gone beyond them. Hobb's conversion is on-target to give them some slim hope of pulling the visitors back&
69mins North Harbour 15-37 Waikato
TRY! Waikato have really taken the game by the scruff of the neck with replacement halfback Brendon Leonard backing up a fine run from O'Donell to dot down for their sixth try. Renata adds the extra two to all but break the back of a tiring harbour side.
65mins North Harbour 15-30 Waikato
TRY! Waikato notch their fourth try to skipper and No. 8 Alex Bradley crossing out wide. Kerr-Barlow fired out a long pass to Mikkelson who combined with lock Chris Middleton to hand off the last pass. Renata's kick is wide of the posts.
59mins North Harbour 15-25 Waikato
Luke Devcich kicks a penalty after Waikato's Renata took too long with their last conversion. Hobb's is still on the park but appears to be in some discomfort so handed off the kicking duties to his fullback. The points are timely after Harbour seemed stunned by the flurry of points from Waikato.
56mins North Harbour 12-25 Waikato
TRY! Kerr-Barlow darts away from the scrum inside the Waikato half before throwing an inside ball to New Zealand Sevens star Declan O'Donnell, who drew and passed back out to Kerr-Barlow to race in untouched. Ranata again converts to swing the momentum of this match firmly in their favour.
52mins North Harbour 12-18 Waikato
TRY! Waikato strike back with a try to big prop Toby Smith. Waikato benefitted from a Harbour kick which Hobbs sent dead ingoal before play resumed back on halfway. The visitors worked their way downfield and spun it wide with the midfield busting the line before off-loading to Smith. Renata adds the extra two.
47mins North Harbour 12-11 Waikato
TRY! Harbour hooker James Parsons finished off some good tight-forward inter-play crashing over next to the posts. Hobbs' kick looked on the money but faded away.
Harbour attacked brilliantly through their midfield runners makling a bust on halfway before Hall fired a pass to Hobbs to drill a nice grubber down to find touch near the Harbour goal line. They were then able to pinch the lineout and work their way forward before Parsons finished things off.
41mins North Harbour 7-11 Waikato
The visitors kick-off the second-half through fullback Trent Renata.
Half-time: North Harbour 7-11 Waikato
North Harbour have battled to contain Waikato's ball movement and strong, direct runners who have found easy metres over the advantage line.
While Harbour have the size advantage with their tight forwards, the Waikato loosies are gaining dominance at the breakdown.
With the limited ball hes been given, Harbour's national Under 20s halfback Bryn Hall has fired out some snappy passes, showing our depth in the No. 9 position is deeper than just the leading All Black contenders.
Hall is linking well with Hobbs at five-eighth, who has impressed with his confident running and sharp use of the ball.
Waikato have used the wind well in the first 40 and it will be
interesting to see if things swing in favour of the hosts in the
22mins North Harbour 7-11 Waikato
Renata adds another three after the hosts infringe at the ruck.
An entertaining clash so far. It is 'Club Day' at North Harbour with their players all wearibng the socks of their local club sides.
On another aside, former All Blacks prop and Otago legend Carl Hoeft is running the water for Waikato.
17mins North Harbour 7-8 Waikato
TRY! New Zealand Sevens star Tim Mikkelson finishes off a good try out wide for the Mooloo Men. Poor defence from the hosts allowed Waikato over the gain line, quick ball from Kerr-Barlow fed his outsides with plenty of space for the winger to race in. Renata's conversion attempt was wide.
7mins North Harbour 7-3 Waikato
TRY! Anthony Tuitavake backs up his wing partner to score on the opposite side of the park. Great build-up from Harbour with some patient football eventually giving them the chance out on the right flank. Hobbs nails his first kick of the day.
2mins North Harbour 0-3 Waikato
North Harbour's second five-eighth Francis Saili was caught offside handing Waikato's Trent Renata the first penalty of the day, which he banged between the posts.
There is a strong north-easterly breeze that is favouring the visitors in this first-half.
0mins North Harbour 0-0 Waikato
North Harbour five-eighth Michael Hobbs kicks-off to get things underway on what is a beautiful afternoon for running rugby.
North Harbour have ranked among the competition's easy-beats in recent years but already have optimists touting them as possible ITM Championship title contenders in 2012.
Harbour have plenty of big forwards, ball runners and pace on the outsides and will be eager to notch a first up win on their home patch.
Waikato are also tipped to be strong title challengers and unlike recent seasons have a solid line-up across the park. Tawera Kerr-Barlow will be looking for a big game to remind All Blacks selectors of his ability while they have former All Black halfback Brendon Leonard sitting on the bench.
Kick off is at 2.35.
In today's other match, Southland travel to Counties Manukau to take on the Steelers from 4.35.
North Harbour: 15 - L Devcich, 14 - D Raikuna, 13 - C Aporo, 12 - F Saili, 11- N Tuitavake, 10 - M Hobbs, 9 - B Hall, 8 - J Tuivaiti, 7 - S Hayes-Stevenson, 6 - M Ravulo, 5 - F Paulo, 4 - C Smith, 3 - B Afeaki (c), 2 - J Parsons, 1 - S Manu.
Reserves: 16 - M Leiataua, 17 - J Afoa, 18 - A Ratuniyarawa, 19 - I Finau, 20 - B Helleur, 21 - P Ah ki, 22 - C Rei.
Waikato: 15 - T Renata, 14 - T Mikkelson, 13 - S Tokula, 12 - J Willison, 11 - D O'Donnell, 10 - S Christie, 9 - T Kerr-Barlow, 8 - A Bradley, 7 - Z Hohneck, 6 - M Vant Leven, 5 - R Graham, 4 - C Middleton, 3 - B May, 2 - M Cummings-Toone, 1 - T Smith.
Reserves: 16 - K Chan Boon, 17 - T Tauroa, 18 - S Kilgour, 19 - J Armstrong, 20 - B Leonard, 21 - P Francis, 22 - G Robertson.