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Northland send Ranger off a winner

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nthland 20 v 19 bop

But just before the damaging centre said au revoir, he gave one last glimpse of what this country will be missing when he led his beloved Northland to a 20-19 win over Bay of Plenty on Saturday.

It’s a shame to see the 27-year-old walking away at the peak of his career. With ball in hand, he is one of the hardest players to stop and this afternoon he displayed the excellent pilfering skills which set him apart from the rest.

The win, which saw Northland avoid the wooden spoon, was a fitting send off for perhaps one of the most underutilised players over his eight years in top flight rugby.

It also ensured Northland fans will have something more to remember than the six consecutive losses that saw them spend most of the season at the foot of the championship table.

While Ranger opened the scores with a thrilling try in the opening 10 minutes, an equally impressive brace to wing Mateo Malupo ensured the home side was relatively comfortable throughout the match, despite their struggles at the set-piece.

Bay of Plenty’s dominance in that area was highlighted when Carl Axtens scored a pushover try from a scrum that began five metres out.

Second-five Nick Evemy doubled the blow early in the second half and cut the deficit to just three. However, Malupo was on hand to answer for Northland on both occasions as the Steamers were forced to play catch up.

Malupo’s first five-pointer, scored after a scintillating burst down the left flank, handed Northland a 15-7 lead at the half-time break.

His second was even more spectacular and left as many as four Bay of Plenty defenders scratching their heads after he was allowed to sprint 65 metres to the goal line.

It was a familiar finish for the men from Bay Park. Destined to drop down to the championship in 2014, they will rue a number of chances that went begging.

Indeed the scoreboard showed that they were firmly in the hunt. But any side that turns over possession inside the attacking 22 as much as they do will always struggle.

Replacement Te Aihe Toma was able to sneak over for a consolation try at the sound of the full-time siren before Kenny Lynn added the conversion from in front.

Northland: 20 (Rene Ranger, Mateo Malupo 2 tries; Daniel Hawkins con, pen)

Bay of Plenty: 19 (Carl Axtens, Nick Evemy, Te Aihe Toma tries; Willie Ripia con; Kenny Lynn con)

HT: 15-7

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