On August 20, Northland blunted Wellington 15-6 at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua. The hosts were held tryless for the first time in 14 games as Northland won in the capital for the first time since 2000.
Even more dramatically on September 3, Northland stunned Auckland 23-22 at Semenoff Stadium to accomplish their first win over the visitors in 16 games in Whangārei stretching back to before the official NPC started in 1976.
First-five Rivez Reihana, a study of composure and source of stability, kicked the winning penalty goal on fulltime against Auckland.
“I pulled one left from almost the exact same spot two minutes earlier. The one to win the game was more out in front. I tend to hook my kicks from right to left so I started the kick out more out right and thankfully it went over,” Reihana said.
The kick was described with great fervour by the now late Willie Los’e.
“I didn't think about that at the time but the fact he’s no longer with us makes that call pretty significant. He was a good rugby man. His passing is a real loss for the rugby community.”
Northland wasn’t without potential in 2021, dropping three games by less than ten points. A more vigorous pre-season fitness campaign combined with the building of greater squad depth has seen narrow losses turned into successes.
“We’ve put a lot of emphasis on defence. Keeping Wellington to no tries was awesome. Defence is about having each other’s backs and working harder for each other,” Reihana said.
“Our forwards have been awesome. They’ve really set a platform. We’ve got a great blend of youth and experience.”
On Sunday Northland was soundly beaten by top of the table Canterbury. This Sunday they host North Harbour before ‘storm’ weeks sees fixtures against Tasman, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu. Reihana is optimistic about Northland’s future prospects.
“Canterbury was a bit of a reality check for us, but it’s allowed us to pick apart our game and really focus on the areas that need improving.
“Canterbury had a really good forward pack and solid set-piece. We’ll have to pick it up physically and cut down on errors to be in the quarters.”
Born in Whangārei with connections in the Bay of Islands, Rivez is the son of a police detective and nephew of former All Black Bruce Reihana. He always seemed preordained for success in rugby.
In 2014 he received a scholarship to St Kentigern College in Auckland and helped the Pakuranga powerhouse win two First XV 1A championships in 2015 and 2017. Reihana was introduced to the top line up in Year 9.
“That was at the Quadrangular with boys like Sam Nock, Pari Pari Parkinson and Ere Enari. I was like a midget out there.
“We had a great environment at St Kent’s. We had the backing of our principal Steve Cole and a handy coach in Tai Lavea. There was a lot of outside noise about scholarships and the like. We just focused on what we could control and it was a real brotherhood.”
Rehiana was a New Zealand Secondary Schools’ selection for two years and featured in consecutive victories against Australia.
He has played 18 games for the Chiefs in the past two seasons of Super Rugby.
His kick against Auckland wasn’t the first time Reihana had slotted a last-play kick to win a game. While playing for Waikato in 2020 he nailed an 88th minute sideline conversion of a Cortez Ratima try to topple Canterbury 16-15 in Christchurch.
Northland take on North Harbour at 4.35pm on Sunday 18 September at Semenoff Stadium.