Mitre 10 Cup playoff race tightens up

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Auckland were not so impressive in claiming a one-point win over Taranaki but Waikato had plenty to be pleased with in their 36-13 win over Counties Manukau.


Northland climbed to the top of the Championship ladder when holding out a Southland assault in the final stages to finish 18-14 winners.


Canterbury v Manawatu 

It took time for the Canterbury machine to crank into gear against a Manawatu team that worked hard on defence. But when second five-eighths Rameka Pohipi scored four minutes out from halftime, the stage was set. And so it proved in the second half. Key to the way in which Canterbury powered home was the relentless support play with first five-eighths Fergus Burke and halfback Mitch Drummond scoring tries to demonstrate that edge. Chay Fihaki finished off the assault with two tries within three minutes. Manawatu made the most of chances in the final 10 minutes with two tries but they proved window dressing as it made no impact on the final outcome.


Manawatu 10 (Josiah Maraku, Drew Wild tries) Canterbury 34 (Rameka Poihipi, Fergus Burke, Mitch Drummond, Chay Fihaki 2 tries: Burke 3 con, pen). HT: 0-10


Taranaki v Auckland

For much of Taranaki's first-half effort against Auckland, fullback Jayson Potroz looked like a one-man wrecking ball in scoring 23 points in as many minutes through two tries he converted while adding three penalty goals. Auckland had started quickly with Salesi Rayasi scoring in the opening minute. But, just before halftime, the Auckland response mounted with lock Jack Whetton scoring. In the first 12 minutes of the second half wing AJ Lam crossed twice to get Auckland back within one point. Taranaki scored next but then Rayasi had the final say with a second try while first five-eighths Harry Plummer kicked what proved the winning conversion as Auckland scraped home again.


Taranaki 28 (Jayson Potroz 2, Jacob Ratumaitaitavuki-Kneepkens tries; Potroz 2 con, 3 pen) Auckland 29 (Salesi Rayasi 2, Jack Whetton, AJ Lam 2 tries; Harry Plummer 2 con). HT: 23-12


North Harbour v Hawke's Bay

North Harbour looked a team transformed when taking on the Ranfurly Shield holders in Albany and claiming a 46-10 win. Moving the ball efficiently, they created plenty of opportunities on the outside where wing Jared Page was able to put his speed to use in posting a hat-trick of tries. Flanker Dillon Hunt exemplified the greater unity in the pack when going over from a maul for his try, while No8 Murphy Taramai may never score an easier try than that he achieved. Hawke's Bay produced an early response when flanker Marino Mikaele-Tu'u powered his way over the line but that was the best the Bay could manage on a day. Bryn Gatland produced a commanding display from first five-eighths for the home side, scoring a try and landing 11 points with his boot, including a 60m effort that took advantage of the training easterly breeze.


North Harbour 46 (Jared Page 3, Dillon Hunt, Murphy Taramai, Bryn Gatland, Tomas Aoake tries; Gatland 4 con, pen) Hawke's Bay 10 (Marino Mikaele-Tu'u try; Connor McLeod con, pen). HT: 22-10


Wellington v Otago

Wellington's playoff hopes took a hit when beaten 34-35 by Otago at SKY Stadium. At 34-23 up with 18 minutes to play Wellington could have considered they were well on the way to victory. But Otago weren't done and when wing Vilimoni Koroi scored his second try to get Otago within sniffing distance with 13 minutes to play, the visitors went to their forwards and a determined assault on the Wellington line finally produced the goods one minute from the end when lock Jack Regan drove over close the points – close enough at least for first five-eighths Josh Ioane to land the match-winning conversion. That lifted Otago to a share of second place in the Championship, although it is 20 points behind on the differential to Hawke's Bay.


Wellington  34 (Trent Renata, James O'Reilly, Alex Fidow, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 4 con, 2 pen) Otago 35 (Liam Coltman, Vilimoni Koroi 2, Sean Withy, Jack Regan tries; Josh Ioane 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 20-13


Waikato v Counties Manukau

Ahead only 12-10 at halftime, and that the result of an injury time penalty try, Waikato poured on the pressure in the second half to run away from Counties Manukau in Hamilton. After Liam Coombes-Fabling opened the scoring 10 minutes into the game, it was the visitors who got out to a 10-5 lead when a bad mistake resulted in fullback Etene Nanai-Seturo picking up the ball and running 60m unchallenged to score. But with the turnaround the boot was on the other foot as some fine ball-handling gave flanker Adam Thomson a chance he took while a perfect chip kick from first five-eighths Fraser Smith allowed Quinn Tupaea to pluck the ball from the air to run in another try.


Waikato 36 (Liam Coombes-Fabling, Adam Thomson, Steven Misa, Quinn Tupaea tries; Penalty try; Fraser Smith con, pen; Rivez Reihana 2 con) Counties Manukau 13 (Etene Nanai-Seturo try; Jason Robertson con, 2 pen). HT: 12-10


Tasman v Bay of Plenty

Tasman showed that it will not only be necessary to counter the pace they have in their backline but also their attacking defence which they used to effect to beat Bay of Plenty 33-7. Wings Leicester Faingaanuku, who scored twice, and Mark Telea set the early standard with first half tries. To make matters more impressive in their win, the power of their scrum was seen in a pushover tighthead close to the line that resulted in a try for loose forward Sione Telitu Havili. Conditions were tough for both sides but Tasman showed they have the wherewithal to cope and maintained their lead at the top of the premiership.


Tasman 33 (Leicester Faingaanuku 2, Mark Telea, Sione Telitu Havili, Blair Prinsep tries; Mitchell Hunt 4 con) Bay of Plenty 7 (Regan Ware try; Otere Black con). HT: 12-7

Northland v Southland

Northland's run of form continued in Whangarei on Sunday when claiming an 18-14 win over Southland. That was enough to leave them three points clear at the top of the Championship ladder but it was also a game that a Southland team that committed fewer mistakes could have found themselves sitting near the top of the table. Southland led 14-11 early in the second half after tries either side of halftime to No8 Tony Lamborn and second five-eighths Isaac Te Tamaki. Northland struck back immediately when halfback Sam Nock reclaimed the lead. Enjoying a dominance of possession throughout the second half, Southland couldn't convert chances into points. And the home team poured on the defensive pressure to hold Southland out, the end coming not long after the last Southland assault on the line ended with a penalty from which the home team cleared their line.


Northland 18 (Tamo Mayanavanua, Sam Nock tries; Dan Hawkins con, 2 pen) Southland 14 (Tony Lamborn, Isaac Te Tamaki tries; Scott Eade 2 con). HT; 11-7.


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