Taranaki remains second, on points, three points behind Wellington, but Canterbury, who beat it 29-28 is only two points behind with a game in hand.
Auckland, which suffered a loss to Manawatu last week, got back on the rostrum with a thumping 41-13 win over Southland in Invercargill and shares third place on 22 points with Canterbury.
Tasman also picked up a handy 58-19 win over Manawatu to be in touch with the leaders with 20 points.
After five weeks of play leading scorers in the competition are:
Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke's Bay) 65
Lucas Cashmore (Bay of Plenty) 52
Fergus Burke (Canterbury) 49
Rivez Reihana (Northland) 48
Aidan Morgan (Wellington) 47
Zarn Sullivan (Auckland) 46
Oscar Kellor (North Harbour) 42
Riley Hohepa Counties Manukau 38
Six – Blair Murray (Canterbury)
Four - Kaylum Boshier (Taranaki), Kini Naholo (Taranaki), Heremiah Murray (Northland), Etene Nanai-Seturo (Counties Manukau), Leroy Carter (Bay of Plenty), Salesi Rayasi (Auckland), Macca Springer (Tasman).
Round 5 Wrap (note: North Harbour hosts at Otago at 7.05pm on Wednesday in the final game of round 5):
What better way for Manawatū to celebrate their first win in 17 games than to head to Auckland to take on the big city boys. It didn't look too good three minutes into the game when an Auckland lineout maul trundled 20m for hooker Leni Apisai to open the scoring with a try. Auckland cashed in on a backline incursion from fullback Payton Spencer to let the forwards go to work before the ball was moved again, with wing Salesi Rayasi popping up to take a pass after centre Cory Evans provided thrust to score their second. But Manawatū were not to be outdone with a flashy move off a lineout that saw No8 Terrell Peita, a loan player from Auckland, run around the front of the lineout to score out wide. Then, from another lineout, they tried another move, and on the end of the chain, wing Waqa Nalaga rounded Spencer to score out wide. However, Auckland had the final say after some applied scrum pressure created a chance on the right flank for Caleb Tangitau to give them a 21-14 lead at the break.
Another lineout maul started the second half scoring with Apisai on the back for his second. Manawatū responded in like fashion, courtesy of two penalties by Auckland, 10 minutes later with prop Joe Gavigan scoring. More points looked possible before home first five-eighths Jock McKenzie pulled off an intercept and ran 90m to score. But Manawatū came back after Nalaga charged onto a ball from second five-eighths James Tofa and made ground before in-passing to flanker TK Howden, who scored. With the scent of victory in their nostrils, Manawatū got back into the Auckland 22m and, from a solid scrum, produced the play that saw replacement flanker Julian Goerke dive through a gap to level the scores with Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula kicking the conversion for an upset, but deserved, win.
Auckland 31 (Leni Apisai 2, Salesi Rayasi, Caleb Tangitau, Jock McKenzie tries; McKenzie 3 con) Manawatū 33 (Terrell Peita, Waqa Nalaga, Joe Gavigan, TK Howden, Julian Goerke tries; Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula 4 con). HT: 21-14
Hooker Tyrone Thompson got Hawke's Bay with six points with a converted try. Still, a fine final quarter saw Northland seal the win, wing Tama Anderson scoring from a cross-kick after a tap penalty and then crossing after fine build-up work again by Goodhue and Moorby before they both recovered to get into position with their quick passing, creating an opportunity on the right flank for Anderson.
Northland 44 (Robert Cobb, Sam Nock 2, Tama Anderson 2 tries; Rivez Reihana 4 con, 3 pen; Dan Hawkins con) Hawke's Bay 21 (Lincoln McClutchie 2, Tyrone Thompson tries; McClutchie 3 con). HT: 24-14
Bay of Plenty's scrum power gave halfback Richard Judd a prime look at the goal line, and he went for it to stretch out to score. Then, soon after, the forwards were like bees around a honeypot in the Otago goalmouth and eventually lock Manaaki Selby-Ricket dived over from the back of a ruck to score. After turning over an Otago surge, a Bay kick deep resulted in a charge down of a Jona Nareki clearing kick. Centre Cole Forbes took the rebound and, despite pulling a hamstring, had enough weigh-on to score. Down 0-21 at the quarter mark, Otago got its lineout maul rolling and prop Jermaine Ainsley emerged from the maul to score. However, the Bay stormed back downfield, and among a surfeit of bodies, Selby-Ricket found a hole to run through and score his second.
Otago replacement prop Saula Ma'u pulled his side back a little closer with a fine driving try after a scrum, but Bay of Plenty's control, especially after losing Naitoa Ah Kuoi to the sin-bin, was enough to spread the ball wide with some tremendous support play resulting in a try for fullback Lucas Cashmore who finished the day with 18 points in the win.
Bay of Plenty 38 (Richard Judd, Manaaki Selby-Ricket 2, Cole Forbes, Lucas Cashmore tries; Cashmore 5 con, pen) Otago 14 (Jermaine Ainsley, Saula Ma'u tries; Finn Hurley 2 con). HT: 28-7
Taranaki took time to settle at Rangiora against Canterbury, but, after 22 minutes, first five-eighths Jayson Potroz prised open the home defence with a superb dummy, with the ball being passed through the line for wing Jacob Ratimaitavuki-Kneepkens to get up after not being held and scoring in the corner. Five minutes later, Canterbury was camped in the Taranaki 22m area, and after relentless pick and goes, the ball emerged, and first five-eighths Alex Harford stepped through the line to respond. Taranaki tried to pick up another try, but, in the process, a Potroz pass was intercepted by wing Ngatungane Punivai, resulting in a 17-11 lead after his 70-metre run to score.
Seven minutes into the second half, a lineout move saw flanker Billy Harmon go low to get over for a try. Another variation from a long throw saw Punivai enter the line from the short side, open up the defence and feed the ball to second five-eighths Rameka Pohipi, who scored. Taranaki went a little more orthodox from a lineout at the other end, and it was replacement hooker Ricky Riccitelli who shot out the side of a turned maul to score. Taranaki's replacement wing, Vereniki Tikoisolomone, unleashed a fine sideline break to take play into Canterbury's 22m area and was rewarded with a try from the resulting play. Reduced to 13 through yellow cards, Canterbury were pushed back into their own 22m, and the ball emerged for fullback Stephen Perofeta to score, but a win was denied when Potroz shanked his conversion attempt to lose 28-29.
Canterbury 29 (Alex Harford, Ngatungane Punivai, Billy Harmon, Rameka Pohipi tries; Harford 3 con, pen) Taranaki 28 (Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Ricky Riccitelli, Vereniki Tikoisolomone, Stephen Perofeta tries; Jayson Potroz con, 2 pen). HT: 17-11
Waikato made a strong start and made the first impact on the scoreboard when fullback Liam Coombes-Fabling entered the line and shook off tackles to race 40m to score. North Harbour poured on the pressure in reply, and an eight-phase build-up saw halfback Jamie Booth slip a short ball to lock Ben Grant to part the defence for the try. Next on the menu for the home team at Albany was a nine-phase burst that saw prop Tevita Mafileo get over the line. Moments later, No8 Cameron Suafoa, who played critical roles in the earlier tries, made a strong burst downfield, and, after scrambles in front of the posts, another Booth short ball provided fullback Shaun Stevenson with a try. Waikato's lineout woes provided another chance short of the line, and when home hooker Shilo Klein tidied a long throw, the ball went blind for wing Danyon Morgan-Puterangi to score in the corner.
Waikato attacked with more menace through its pack, and nine minutes into the half, No8 Simon Parker worked a neat offload with Ollie Norris, and the prop telescoped his arm over the line to score. They continued to attack, but North Harbour's line held, and when they got the chance, they went to their lineout and replacement hooker Ray Nuia was in the boot to extend the lead with a try. Then, 11 minutes from time, the ball was moved to and fro, and replacement loose forward Lotu Inisi featured twice before scoring with a spectacular dive. There was time for Waikato's lineout to provide replacement hooker Sean Ralph with a try after a drive at the line.
North Harbour 39 (Ben Grant, Tevita Mafileo, Shaun Stevenson, Danyon Morgan-Puterangi, Ray Nuia, Lotu Inisi tries; Oscar Koller 3 con, pen) Waikato 17 (Liam Coombes-Fabling, Ollie Norris, Sean Ralph tries; Aaron Cruden con). HT:24-5
It took 21 minutes, but Wellington's continuity play eventually produced a reward, with fullback Ruben Love diving across in the corner for the opening try. If that was class, what followed two minutes later was sublime. A break from second five-eighths, Peter Umaga-Jensen saw wing Losi Filipo on hand in support, and when lined up, he worked a perfect reverse pass with halfback Kyle Preston, who scored. Counties Manukau got some relief when hooker Ioane Moananu went the blindside off a maul to score. But Wellington responded through a try to centre Billy Proctor. An overthrown lineout by Counties allowed Wellington hooker James O'Reilly to secure the ball, and when moved through the line, wing Isi Saumaki scored. Just before the break, a well-worked move created vast open space on the left flank for Peniasi Malimali to score.
Halfback Liam Daniela scored after a breakout move from their line by Counties Manukau, but replacement back Riley Higgins pulled off an intercept and cleared out 80m downfield, and while run down, flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi scored in subsequent play. Then, replacement halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara ran around the back of a lineout at speed to score, and the final home try saw Love pour on the speed to score in the corner. Counties Manukau had a consolation try to fullback Etene Nanai-Seturo to complete the game.
Wellington 56 (Ruben Love 2, Kyle Preston, Billy Proctor, Isi Saumaki, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara tries; Aidan Morgan 4 con, 3 pen; Sam Clarke 2 con) Counties Manukau 25 (Ioane Moananu, Peniasi Malimali, Liam Daniela, Etene Nanai-Seturo tries; Riley Hohepa pen; Sam Tuifua con). HT: 32-13
Invercargill's Rugby Park was a place for Southland not to be in the face of an Auckland side rebounding from a midweek loss to Manawatu. And it took only 12 minutes for Auckland's scrum power to open up the home defence for wing AJ Lam to score off a long pass. Southland's chances were not helped when first five-eighths Zarn Sullivan locked onto a long pass from his opposite Dan Hollinshead to race 50m for a try. Flanker Blake Gibson popped a short pass to second five-eighths Bryce Heem, who took play deep into the home 22m area. In several drives for the line, it was finally halfback Kalani Thomas who placed the ball for the try from the base of a ruck.
In the second half, Heem combined with fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who sped through a gap and fed left wing Xavier Tito-Harris, who raced away to score the first of three tries, a scrum pushover try for No8 Vaiolini Ekuasi, and a try for Southland wing Michael Manson, splitting his sequence. His last, three minutes from the end, was created from an outstanding breakout by Heem with a long pass sending Tito-Harris away on a 50m run to score.
Southland 13 (Michael Manston try; Dan Hollinshead con, 2 pen) Auckland 41 (AJ Lam, Zarn Sullivan, Kalani Thomas, Xavier Tito-Harris 3, Vaiolini Ekuasi tries; Sullivan 3 con). HT: 6-19
Manawatū struck first in Nelson with flanker Slade McDowall picking up quick ball from a ruck to score, and in the 15th minute, Tasman loosie Anton Segner replied in kind. Ethan Blackadder marked his return with some classy play, initially with a midfield break after a lineout and a pass to supporting halfback Noah Hotham. Two minutes later, Hotham was in again after impressive build-up work by centre Levi Aumua, wing Willi Gaulter and fullback Macca Springer, who had Hotham in support to take the ball to score. A lineout maul saw hooker Feleti Kaitu'u cross. Blackadder turned on the heat from the restart, charging into Manawatū territory before giving the ball to Gaulter, who then found Springer in support to score under the posts. Tasman went to the break at 34-5.
Thumping tackles by Aumua and Blackadder rocked the visitors, and first five-eighths, Shun Miyake took advantage to score and cap an impressive 18-point contribution to the effort. Timoci Tavatavanawai made ground after lead-up work by Springer and Gaulter and again found Hotham on hand to take the ball and complete a hat-trick of tries. A loose Manawatū pass was snapped by Gaulter, who ran 50m to score. But the visitors got two tries back through prop Joe Gavigan and John Poland. However, Tasman had the final say, with wing Jack Gray rounding out an impressive home effort.
Tasman 58 (Anton Segner, Noah Hotham 3, Feleti Kaitu'u, Macca Springer, Shun Miyake, Willi Gaulter, Jack Gray tries; Miyake 5 con, pen) Manawatū 19 (Slade McDowall, Joe Gavigan, John Poland tries; Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula 2 con). HT:34-5