Both Tasman and Otago defied the home advantage of their semifinal opponents to claim their places.
Hawke's Bay went down to Tasman 27-33 in Napier with Waikato beating Canterbury 17-14 in Rotorua while Otago beat Manawatu 44-16 to set up a final with Taranaki who beat Southland 25-13 in Inglewood.
Hawke's Bay 27 Tasman 33
The chance of a rare NPC-Ranfurly Shield double was on the cards for Hawke's Bay, in Napier, but Tasman had their own goals, especially the thought of achieving a hat-trick of title wins. With that in mind, Tasman laid an early marker as a superb lineout drive produced the try for hooker Andrew Makalio. But Hawke's Bay didn't take long to make their own mark when, unable to complete their own lineout maul, they freed the ball and a lovely backhand flick by second five-eighths Danny Toala gave wing Jonah Lowe a chance which he took. Given a second chance, the Bay took it, and it was lock Tom Parsons who ran down the sideline to score. Centre Leicester Fainga'anuku got Tasman back onto attack with a strong run and second five-eighths Andrew Knewstubb sealed the try. They had a piece of luck when a forward pass, on an inside pass, went undetected allowing wing Timoci Tavatanawai to extend Tasman's lead to 25-12 before flanker Marino Mikaele-Tu'u scored for the Bay before the break. It looked when lock Geoff Cridge touched down nine minutes into the second half that the Bay were coming back at 24-25. Then first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie knocked over a 55m penalty goal to claim the lead. But, with 10 minutes, left Fainga'anuku knocked the Bay when intercepting a pass from fullback Lolagi Visinia to run in the try from 40m. A Mitch Hunt penalty goal and a Levi Aumua turnover in a goalmouth breakdown with the Bay hot on attack ran down time for Tasman to claim the finals berth.
Hawke's Bay 27 (Jonah Lowe, Tom Parsons, Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, Geoff Cridge tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con, pen) Tasman 33 (Andrew Makalio, Andrew Knewstubb, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Leicester Fainga'anuku tries; Mitch Hunt 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 17-25
Waikato 17 Canterbury 14
Wet weather in Rotorua restricted the options for both sides to play their normal games and with a lineout close to Canterbury's line it was no surprise that after several pick-and-goes it was hooker Rhys Marshall who opened the scoring for Waikato. But the wet didn't prevent centre Bailyn Sullivan unleashing some footwork to open up enough space to run in for the try beside the posts. That gave Waikato a 14-3 lead at the break. Canterbury kept their hopes alive when from a lineout, and several drives at the line, the ball was moved wide and it was flanker Corey Kellow who drove through a gap to score the first points of the second half. Under the conditions it became a test of discipline, and Canterbury were the first to succumb as home first five-eighths D'Angelo Leuila landed a 45m penalty goal to push beyond the seven-point margin. Two penalty goals to Canterbury first five-eighths Fergus Burke got his side back within three with 16 minutes left. However, it was Waikato who finished strongest to claim the final berth.
Waikato 17 (Rhys Marshall, Bailyn Sullivan tries; D'Angelo Leuila 2 con, pen) Canterbury 14 (Corey Kellow try; Fergus Burke 3 pen). HT: 14-3
Manawatū 16 Otago 44
Manawatū's first half defence was stoic but was whittled down to the last few minutes when play that started on Otago's line resulted in a try for lock Josh Hill ploughing over after a series of goal-line rucks. Otago maintained that scoring momentum when working into the shadow of Manawatū's posts five minutes into the second half and fullback Sam Gilbert ran a narrow angle off a ruck to score. Then first five-eighths Josh Ioane chose his moment well to break the line from a ruck, run into space and then slip in a kick wide for wing Vilimoni Koroi to run onto the ball for the try, his first of the season. Manawatū had some solace at the three-quarter mark when pouncing on loose Otago ball from a steal at a lineout on their line to score. Otago, however, used the power of their scrum to seal the deal when replacement halfback James Arscott tidied ball from a charging scrum by slipping a pass to blindside wing Freedom Vahaakolo whose speed off the mark beat the home defence as he raced across the goalmouth to score. But if that try impressed, his second, and seventh of the season, saw him fed a long overhead pass by centre Matt Faddes before an in-out on the defence opened space down the sideline to score. Manawatu finished with a second try from a penalty tap which saw centre Josiah Maraku cross in the corner.
Scores: Manawatū 16 (Joshua Hill, Sam Gilbert, Vilimoni Koroi, Freedom Vahakolo 2 tries; Josh Ioane 4 con, 3 pen; Cameron Millar con) Otago 44 (Brayden Iose, Josiah Maraku tries; Stewart Cruden 2 pen). HT: 3-13
Taranaki 25 Southland 13
Early space opened on a soaked Inglewood ground after a lineout for lock Kaylum Boshier to create an initial line break before he found flanker Tom Florence in support. He ran, and then aqua-planed over the line for the first try of the game. Then scrum power out from Southland's line saw No8 Pita Gus Sowakula run the ball wide before passing back inside to halfback Logan Crowley who scored. Into the second half Southland worked the All Blacks 2011 World Cup final try-scoring 'Teabag' move with flanker Rory van Vugt ploughing through the gap opened in the middle of the lineout to go across in the tackle, á la Tony Woodcock. That was it as far as try-scoring was concerned and it came down to Stephen Perofeta's boot with penalty goal chances created and he kicked Taranaki home with five penalty goals.
Taranaki 25 (Tom Florence, Logan Crowley tries; Stephen Perofeta 5 pen) Southland 13 (Rory van Vugt try; Marty Banks con, 2 pen). HT: 16-6