With just one week remaining in the regular season, Canterbury will be top seed in the Premiership semi finals with Taranaki and two of Counties Manukau, Auckland, Tasman and Waikato rounding out the final four.
In the Championship Otago, Wellington and Manawatu have booked their places in the semi finals and will be joined by either Bay of Plenty or North Harbour.
Week eight’s action:
Manawatu 50-28 Wellington
Manawatu racked up their highest-ever score against Wellington in this eight try to four rout. The half time score of 17-7 gave no hint as to the carnage that unfolded in the second 40 as the Lions’ defence evaporated in and around the contact areas. Flanker Antonio Kirikiri scored four of the Turbos’ tries and centre Jason Emery two. Wing Jason Woodward scored a sweet individual try for Wellington.
Tasman 49-31 Auckland
The 100% kicking of Tasman 5/8 Marty Banks, who bagged 26 points, proved the difference as both sides scored four tries. Auckland had slightly the better of the first half, leading 24-23 at the break. Tasman then restricted Auckland to just a converted try in the second 40 while Banks made them pay for every indiscretion. Centre David Havili landed a 70th minute, 60m monster to help seal the win:
Canterbury 47-18 North Harbour (RANFURLY SHIELD)
Canterbury retained the Shield with 31 unanswered points in the final 30 minutes, after the opening 50 brought memories of Harbour’s successful Shield raid ten yeas ago flooding back.
Two tries each in the first half to Canterbury flanker Tom Sanders and wing George Bridge, and Harbour centre Matt Vaega and prop Sione Mafilio, saw the sides level 15-15 at half time. Canterbury’s Jordie Barrett and Harbour’s Bryn Gatland each added a conversion and a penalty. Harbour had a slight edge in possession and territory, gained more turnovers, and made fewer handling errors. All in all Harbour would probably have been the more satisfied with their opening 40, and optimistic looking ahead to the second.
Penalties were traded before Barrett edged Canterbury ahead with his third, but at 21-18 Harbour still looked good value for a win. All that changed, however, as first centre Jack Goodhue, then 5/8 Richie Mo’unga, and finally substitute hooker Nathan Vella crossed the chalk and Barrett (twice) and Mo’unga added the extras to shut Harbour out of the game. A late try to replacement halfback Jack Stratton closed out the second-half rout. This being Canterbury’s final regular season home game, the Shield will spend the summer in Christchurch.
Southland 39-31 Northland
After breaking a 19-match losing streak last week Northland ran in five tries but were unable to fully capitalise on 65% possession and spending fully a third of the match in Southland’s 22. Southland ran in five tries of their own, converted four of them and crucially landed the only three-pointer of the day (Northland taking no penalty attempts) to win the battle of the Championship cellar dwellers.
Counties Manukau 16-14 Otago
Counties Manukau, beaten by a point twice this season, snatched victory from Otago, who have now lost three in a row after dominating the Championship in the early rounds. Counties lead 10-7 at the break, falling behind 10-14 at the 50 minute mark before replacement 5/8 Joe Reynolds got them home with two late penalties. The decider came from what would have been a turnover under “normal” rules.
Waikato 41-22 Hawkes Bay
Waikato, winless in their last four outings, came out firing with three first half tries to lead 27-3 at the break, outclassing Hawkes Bay in every facet of play. The Magpies improved markedly after the break but it was never going to be enough to avoid defeat and relegation. Waikato now come back into semi final contention, but will need a result or three to go their way from here on in if they’re to make it.
Taranaki 54-31 Wellington
Wellington were dealt their second 50-point hiding of the weekend as they again capitulated in the second half. Taranaki fullback Stephen Perofeta bagged a hat trick and 5/8 Marty McKenzie turned in a man-of-the-match performance, including 7/8 from the tee, in what was a record-breaking score for them. Wellington scored two late tries to snare what could be an invaluable bonus point.
Bay of Plenty 38-33 Manawatu
Both sides scored two first-half and three second-half tries as the lead changed hands regularly. Bay had much the better of the set pieces, twice scoring from dominant scrums, while Manawatu stayed in touch through their backs, fullback Ambrose Curtis and centre Ngani Laumape featuring prominently. Bay 5/8 Dan Hollinshead’s 79th minute penalty sealed the win.
While you’re there, check out the Farah Palmer Cup (women’s NPC) Final and weekly Heartland Championship Round videos, too.
Week 9 fixtures:
Wed 12 Oct North Harbour v Tasman, Albany
Thu 13 Oct Taranaki v Auckland, New Plymouth
Fri 14 Oct Manawatu v Otago, Palmerston North
Sat 15 Oct Counties Manukau v Canterbury, Pukekohe
Sat 15 Oct Hawkes Bay v Bay of Plenty, Napier
Sat 15 Oct Wellington v Waikato, Wellington
Sun 16 Oct Tasman v Southland, Nelson
Sun 16 Oct Northland v North Harbour, Whangarei