Defending champion Wellington still leads the competition with 32 points. After Auckland beat Canterbury 36-29 at Eden Park, it moved into second place, five points behind, with Tasman beating Taranaki 29-18 to move into third, two points further back with Canterbury, with a game in hand, and Taranaki on 24 points.
Unofficial leading points scorers after six rounds are:
Lincoln McClutchie (Hawke's Bay). 75
Fergus Burke (Canterbury) 61
Aidan Morgan (Wellington) 58
Zarn Sullivan (Auckland) 57
Rivez Reihana (Northland) 53
Oscar Koller (North Harbour) 52
Lucas Cashmore (Bay of Plenty 52
Leading try scorers are:
Michael Manson (Southland) 6
Heremaia Murray (Northland) 6
Blair Murray (Canterbury) 6
Losilosivale Filipo (Wellington) 5
Picking the ball out of a ruck 15 metres from the North Harbour line, Otago lock Fabien Holland opened the scoring with an impressive run in for the opening try after three minutes. The home team's response at Albany came three minutes later when fullback Shaun Stevenson ran into the line, took a gap with a hip swivel, and passed for wing Sofai Maka to run onto the ball at speed to score. A tighthead for the powerful Otago scrum opened the chance for a cross kick by first five-eighths Ajay Faleafaga, which bounced for wing Josh Whaanga, who had hung back, to claim the ball and score. North Harbour had two chances ruled out before Otago got downfield. The ball was moved across the field from a lineout move, with a long pass landing for John Tapueleulu to score. Otago led 17-10 at the break.
Heading into the final quarter, replacement Jona Nareki picked up a dropped ball by Stevenson after North Harbour had counter-attacked from an Otago dropped ball. He had the legs and swerved to run 38m to extend Otago's lead. Harbour came rattling back and swung the ball to centre Moses Leo, running hard to give Maka his second try. Stevenson made up for his earlier error with a break after competing for the ball at a breakdown and slipped a back-handed ball to Leo, who went over and had the TMO confirm he had grounded the ball to give his side the win.
North Harbour 27 (Sofai Maka 2, Moses Leo tries; Oscar Koller con, 2 pen; Bryn Gatland 2 con) Otago 24 (Fabien Holland, Josh Whaanga, John Tapueleulu, Jona Nareki tries; Finn Hurley 2 con). HT: 10-17
The early reward for hard-won ball went walkabout for Waikato at FMG Stadium when wing Losilosivale Filipo picked off the easiest of intercepts to set Wellington on its way for the first try. But Waikato kept at it, and after No8 Simon Parker provided the impetus with a short-side break, his short pass to fullback Tepea Cook-Savage was enough for him to score. Then, in the 16th minute, Wellington's first five-eighths, Aidan Morgan received an inside ball from centre Billy Proctor. He raced 40 metres before lobbing the ball to fullback Ruben Love to score. But halfback Xavier Roe, who started a move with a tap penalty, was caught short of the line but set up a string of rucks before he burrowed through the defence to score. Waikato claimed the lead after Wellington dropped the ball, and centre Tana Tuhakaraina was onto it before giving it to wing Daniel Sinkinson to run in the try. However, a lineout maul close to the line saw lock Hugo Plummer cross, and before the break, Filipo entered the line from his wing to score his second.
Waikato scored first in the second half through lock James Tucker from a goal line maul, and then as they looked to get in front, there was an action replay intercept for Filipo, and six minutes from the end, replacement prop Xavier Numia barged his way over under the crossbar to seal the win for the competition leaders.
Waikato 24 (Tepaea Cook-Savage, Xavier Roe, Daniel Sinkinson, James Tucker tries; Tepaea Cook-Savage 2 con) Wellington 41 (Losilosivale Filipo 3, Ruben Love, Hugo Plummer, Xavier Numia tries; Aidan Morgan 4 con, pen). HT: 17-27
Building up patiently on the Bay of Plenty line, Hawke's Bay scored the opening try when hooker Tyrone Thompson blasted through by the posts. Thompson was at hand again on the back of a maul to feed halfback Brad Weber, who gave wing James Lowe enough space to score in the corner. Slick passing by forwards and backs allowed fullback Sekuini Tanimo to open the Bay of Plenty response. Lock Justin Sangster drove over by the posts from a ruck to reduce the margin to one point. Wharenui Hawera for Bay of Plenty and local Lincoln McClutchie exchanged penalties for the home team to turn at 18-17.
Bay of Plenty lost flanker Veveni Lasaqa to a red card after a clash of heads in a tackle in the 45th minute. Replacement forward Pasilio Tosi made light of being a player down to crash through the defence to score. Down by six points, Hawke's Bay responded from a scrum, where despite taking on bigger men, Weber managed to keep his feet and wriggle through to score. A break from centre Melani Nanai on halfway allowed wing Fehi Fineanganofo to put his speed to use to extend Bay of Plenty's lead. Then lock Manaaki Selby-Rickit was ideally placed in the backline to cap the scoring for the visitors with a try. Hawke's Bay responded with two tries to wing Ollie Sapsford, the first from a huge rolling maul and the second after a more orthodox angled run.
Hawke's Bay 35 (Tyrone Thompson, James Lowe, Brad Weber, Ollie Sapsford 2 tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con, 2 pen) Bay of Plenty 38 (Sekuini Tanimo, Justin Sangster, Pasilio Tosi, Fehi Fineanganofo, Manaaki Selby-Rickit tries; Wharenui Hawera 5 con, pen). HT: 18-17
Counties Manukau No8, Hoskins Sotutu's outstanding midfield break off a miscued Southland pass took play deep into the visitors' 22m area. When the ball was moved right, wing Josh Gray showed fine diving technique to score in the corner. Southland responded with a try from a lineout drive to lock Mike McKee. Halfback Liam Daniela got the home team further ahead when wrestling over in a tackle, but Southland responded with a scrum move that saw wing Michael Manson explode into a wide gap to score. Counties Manukau, first five-eighths Riley Hohepa made the most of a strong scrum on Southland's line to step his way over. A lineout steal 10m in their territory saw vintage Counties play with the ball moving quickly for Sotutu to make another fine break to the line, where Gray picked up the ball from the ruck to score his second. But just before the break, a Southland maul saw the ball moved for fullback Gabriel Hamer-Webb to score.
Driving play produced a third try for Gray after a long pass by Sotutu before more strong running on backline entry saw Manson score a second for Southland. He followed that with a try from a distance that saw him kick ahead twice and score just inside the deadball line. However, scrum power on the Southland line confirmed the win with a penalty try.
Counties Manukau 39 (Josh Gray 3, Liam Daniela, Riley Hohepa tries; Penalty try; Hohepa con; AJ Alatimu con, pen) Southland 29 (Mike McKee, Michael Manson 3, Gabriel Hamer-Webb tries; Dan Hollinshead 2 con). HT: 24-17
Two clean breaks by Auckland's first five-eighths Zarn Sullivan in the first minutes laid the foundation for second five-eighths Bryce Heem to open the scoring with a try. Canterbury allowed a 12-minute mid-field bomb to bounce and eventually fall into the hands of wing AJ Lam. He tore downfield, with centre Corey Evans in support, and Evans scored the try. A lovely outside break by Canterbury's first five-eighths, Fergus Burke saw his speed beat the defence for a 24th-minute try. Five minutes later, Burke was in action again when putting flanker Tom Christie into space to pass to second five-eighths Dallas McLeod, who scored to give Canterbury the lead. Auckland halfback Kalani Thomas recovered the lead for his side with a snipe from a ruck in front of the posts. But it didn't last long as quick Canterbury hands provided Solomon Alaimalo with a try in the corner on halftime.
Auckland reclaimed the lead in the 44th minute when Thomas scored his second after breaks by Evans, who had the halfback in support to take the final pass and round the defence. However, in the 61st minute, Canterbury's lineout drive pressure resulted in a penalty try and 10 minutes in the bin for lock Josh Beehre. Sullivan levelled the scores with 14 minutes to play, and the winning try came from replacement prop Joe Royal, who wrestled his way over from a close-quarter ruck.
Auckland 36 (Bryce Heem, Corey Evans, Kalani Thomas 2, Joe Royal tries; Zarn Sullivan 4 con, pen) Canterbury 29 (Fergus Burke, Dallas McLeod, Solomon Alaimalo tries; Penalty try; Burke 2 con, pen). HT: 19-22
Showing some vitality through the early stages, Tasman scored the first try from a sustained buildup, and it was centre Levi Aumua who finally corkscrewed his way over. Taranaki struck back after ball from the top of a lineout was moved, with first five-eighths Jayson Potroz dropping back and joining outside centre before putting wings Kini Naholo and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens away down the sideline. The latter's in-pass was deflected, but Potroz picked it up to score. Flanker Anton Segner's charge down of an attempted clearance by Taranaki fullback Stephen Perofeta resulted in Tasman claiming the ball and wing Timoci Tavatavanawai taking a long pass from second five-eighths Alex Nankivell to run in in the opposite corner.
Into the second half, Tasman moved the ball left, then back to the right from a five-metre lineout out from Taranaki's line, and Aumua scored his second. Blindside flanker Pita-Gus Sowakula scored a similarly constructed try next up for the home team after Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens' came across from his wing to give the impetus that saw quick ball moved blind to Sowakula lurking on the wing to score. After Aumua had a third try ruled out, Tasman maintained the pressure, and when the ball was held up near the line, it emerged for Segner to score.
Taranaki 18 (Jayson Potroz, Pita-Gus Sowakula tries; Stephen Perofeta con, 2 pen) Tasman 29 (Levi Aumua 2, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Anton Segner tries; Taine Robinson 3 con, pen). HT: 10-15
Otago made a flying start with a clear win from a lineout, with wing Josh Whaanga taking the ball down his flank before, from the ruck, first five-eighths Ajay Faleafaga put a cross kick to the opposite wing. Jona Nareki secured the ball with lock Will Tucker in support to give him the ball to score. Penalty goals for either side, two to Otago and one to Northland, preceded wing Heremaia Murray's try off a miscued kick by Otago five-eighths Jack Leslie.
With Northland second five-eighths Jack Goodhue sin-binned for offside play, Otago took their chance with a lineout move, allowing fullback Sam Gilbert to give Nareki a long pass for the try. Northland got a try back through some classy play by Murray, who opened up the defence with a dummy to score with ease. Otago wrapped up the win with a 17-phase effort that resulted in Jake Te Hiwi benefitting from the set-up plays and good linking play by Nareki and replacement back Taupuelelu to score.
Otago 30 (Will Tucker, Jona Nareki, Jake Te Hiwi tries; Sam Gilbert 3 con, 3 pen) Northland 15 (Heremaia Murray 2 tries; Rivez Reihana con, pen). HT: 13-8
North Harbour ran a long kick back from their 22m area, and 60 metres out, flanker Jed Melvyn took the ball on the left sideline and charged downfield, shook out of wing Nehe Milner-Skudder's tackle to score a spectacular solo try. A Manawatu dropped ball was toed deep into their territory, and wing Moses Leo won the race, tapped the ball ahead, regathered and beat solitary defender wing Drew Wild to score. Manawatu came back with Milner-Skudder making no mistake with second five-eighths James Tofa's long pass to score. North Harbour struck back with a lineout maul drive for flanker Tamarau McGahan to go over. Moments later, his break produced a penalty, which halfback Jamie Booth took quickly to race ahead while no one was 10 metres back to score. Before the break, Manawatu scored their second with flanker Slade McDowell crossing in the corner.
Good ball-handling through the backline resulted in wing Danyon Morgan-Puterangi finishing the move with the try. Manawatu scored through a lineout maul drive for hooker Andrew Quattrin before Gatland helped himself to a try when the home defence was up too quickly. Wild and flanker TK Howden picked up two late tries before North Harbour finished off, with replacement prop Fatongia Paea scoring the last off an in-goal charge down.
Manawatu 29 (Nehe Milner-Skudder, Slade McDowall, Andrew Quattrin, Drew Wild, TK Howden tries; Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula tries; Brett Cameron con; Armstrong-Ravula con) North Harbour 48 (Jed Melvin, Moses Leo, Tamarau McGahan, Jamie Booth, Danyon Morgan-Puterangi, Bryn Gatland, Fatongia Paea tries; Gatland 4 con, pen; Oscar Koller con). HT: 12-27
NOTE: Counties Manukau takes on Canterbury in the final game of round six at 7.05pm on Wednesday 13 September at Navigation Homes Stadium.