Harbour gets the message

Getty Images     20 Aug 2010     Getty Images

Halfback Chris Smylie described how Wilson had given the side a stern, blunt message after they trailed 23-9 at the break.

Coach Craig Down even had a slight chuckle when he elaborated his assistant's speech.

"Jeff laid it on pretty thick to the boys, just some key messages – it wasn't going over the top. The boys understood, they're not stupid, they knew what needed to be done. Hearing those words worked," Down said, pausing for a smile.

With Wilson's words ringing in their ears, Harbour stormed home with 26 unanswered points for a 35-23 win in Albany.

"We challenged each other. We knew that if we lost this game our season would have been going downhill, so we decided to test each other's character to see if we could front up – and we did," Smylie said of what happened in the sheds at half time.

After four games Dowd was chuffed to be two and two, with the losses coming against Canterbury and Auckland. His side would enjoy the first two days, of a 10-day break before Bay of Plenty's challenge.

"The season's not looking too bad, it's actually looking pretty good," he said.

Dowd was quick to praise Luke McAlister for his composed role in the win. After starting at second five-eighths, McAlister's experience was vital in closing out the match when shifted to No.10 for the final 20 minutes.

"We definitely saw the best of Luke McAlister," Dowd said.

Otago coach Phil Mooney, by contrast, was left speechless.

"I don't know what words describe that to be honest," a dejected Mooney said post-match.

He denied there were any affects of a short five-day turnaround and put a scoreless second half down to 'a complete lack of composure' and too many turnovers.

"We went away from what we were doing well and it's extremely disappointing . North Harbour didn't do anything outstanding, other than keep the pressure on with field position."

Otago was hit with a lop-sided 5-15 penalty count, which led to two warnings from referee Bryce Lawrence in the second forty.

"I couldn't hear what Bryce was saying," Mooney said. "It was his 150th game tonight. He's the best credentialed ref we've had this year and I've never had a problem with Bryce."

After four consecutive losses, the heat is on Otago and personnel changes are likely for the next match against Taranaki.

"There's undoubted pressure on us. We need to be better, that's the reality. We need to have a hard look at selections. Like all teams we went in knowing there's extreme pressure and you have to play well to get in the top seven," Mooney said.