Hawke's Bay got a fright from North Harbour but showed Ranfurly Shield holders' composure to come home late to seal the win while Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury were all on the end of big wins.
Bunnings NPC Round Four results:
Tasman 20 Canterbury 52
Mistakes and tactical choices rebounded on Tasman in the first quarter and they paid dearly for a Canterbury team looking to regain its mojo. A kick from centre Dallas McLeod gave wing Manasa Mataele the space to win the chase for the first try and then a turnover behind the Tasman scrum saw Canterbury pounce with lock Sam Darry scoring. They lost No8 Cullen Grace with a shoulder injury before wing Matt Springer rounded off a Tasman burst in the Canterbury 22m for a try on the back of centre Alex Nankivell's impetus in the set-up play.
However, it was only momentary reward for the home team. Canterbury hooker Geroge Bell's determination with the ball opened the blindside and when the ball emerged first five-eighths Fergus Burke switched play to the blind to stroll through a chasm to score. Mataele put a kick ahead and second five-eighths Rameka Pohipi raced through to score while flanker Billy Harmon followed that off a short pass from replacement halfback Willi Heinz to crash over. Nankivell featured again when slipping a kick to the in-goal where Springer won the race for his second try for Tasman. Replacement Canterbury prop Tamaiti Williams' strength provided the icing with their final try while replacement back William Havili finished the game with a consolation try for Tasman.
Tasman 20 (Macca Springer 2, William Havili tries; Campbell Parata pen; Havili con) Canterbury 52 (Manasa Mataele, Sam Darry, Dom Gardiner, Fergus Burke, Rameka Pohipi, Billy Harman, Tamaiti Williams tries; Burke 7 con, pen). HT: 8-24
Waikato 53 Manawatū 6
Dancing with the rugby stars was played out on FMG Stadium in Hamilton on Friday and there was little Manawatū could do about it. First five-eighths Damian McKenzie cut loose when beating five defenders to score his try and then produced another run cutting back to run across the face of seven defenders for hooker Rhys Marshall to be on hand at first receiver off the ruck to score.
But then the pack got in the action with No8 Luke Jacobson and flanker Patrick McCurran putting replacement prop Ollie Norris into wide open real estate. When his options narrowed he found flying replacement halfback Cortez Ratima on hand and he had too much speed for the defence to score. Replacement midfield back Taha Kemara showed his ability to move when completing the scoring. But that's not to forget wing Macca Sinkinson's speed off the mark to punish a miscued Manawatū tap back for his try, and a show of speed on the outside break from fullback Liam Coombes-Fabling to take Sinkinson within inches of the line only to reward Coombes-Fabling's support with an in-pass for his try. That try coming off a 35-metre driving maul. Waikato put it all on display to secure top marks.
Waikato 53 (Daniel Sinkinson 2, Liam Coombes-Fabling, Damian McKenzie, Mitchell Jacobson, Rhys Marsall, Cortez Ratima, Taha Kemara tries; McKenzie 3 con, pen: Kemara 2 con) Manawatū 6 (Brett Cameron 2 pen). HT: 15-6
Hawke's Bay 25 North Harbour 23
So near, yet so far was the story for North Harbour in another contribution to the rich legacy of the Ranfurly Shield. Up 23-15 well into the final quarter after a hat-trick of tries to flying left Tevita Li, none better than his last created when fullback Shaun Stevenson's receipt of a long ball from first five-eighths Bryn Gatland allowed him to swivel off the defence, create a gap and run hard into space. He timed his pass to Li perfectly, and with his speed, Li was never going to be headed on his 40m race to the line.
Hawke's Bay stared well with fullback Chase Tiatia scoring after taking the ball on a nice angle. Gatland took a tap penalty to catch the Bay napping which saw Li score his first. Recovering All Black Brodie Retallick made his mark with two strong drives in setting up a try for wing Lolagi Visinia. A poor lineout for the Bay saw halfback Jamie Booth flick a short pass to Li on the blind and he corkscrewed over in the corner. Down 15-23, first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie landed a penalty goal. Then, as Hawke's Bay mounted a typical Shield defender's drive for points, North Harbour lost Stevenson to the sin-bin for slowing ball down. A predictable lineout maul provided the chance for replacement hooker Kianu Kereru-Symes to score, and he made no mistake to seal the win.
Hawke's Bay 25 (Chase Tiatia, Lolagi Visinia, Kianu Kereru-Symes tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con, 2 pen) North Harbour 23 (Tevita Li 3 tries; Bryn Gatland con, 2 pen). HT: 12-15
Auckland 35 Otago 17
Early mistakes proved costly for Otago at Eden Park. Otago knocked on five metres out from Auckland's line. Prop Marcel Renata picked up, passed to lock Jackson Pugh who made it to halfway where tackle set-up ball was moved to first five-eighths Harry Plummer who beat two tackles before finding flanker Blake Gibson on his outside for an uncontested run to score. Then hooker Soane Vikena hit Otago first five-eighths Josh Ioane in a crash tackle to drop the ball loose for centre AJ Lam to gather the ball and run in a try. A decision to take a scrum instead of a penalty clearance on their line backfired for Otago, and while Auckland didn't score immediately, another five-metre scrum resulted in a penalty try.
Otago started the second half with replacement wing Freedom Vaha'akolo scoring but Auckland responded when, from a breakdown, the ball bounced free from a tackle on halfback Taufa Funaki for wing Salesi Rayasi to pick the ball up, charge through the defence and race 40m to score. A poor Otago pass on attack saw Rayasi swoop on the ball and put fullback Jordan Trainor in the clear 60m out and he completed the try. Auckland had two players in the sin-bin in the final stages for Otago to capitalise with replacement forward Oliver Haig and fullback Sam Gilbert scoring tries.
Auckland 35 (Blake Gibson, AJ Lam, Salesi Rayasi, Jordan Trainor tries; Penalty try; Harry Plummer 4 con) Otago 17 (Freedom Vaha'akolo, Oliver Haig, Sam Gilbert tries; Cameron Millar con). HT: 21-0
Bay of Plenty 13 Counties Manukau 18
Bay of Plenty scored the tries, two of them, but they forgot to back that with discipline, and paid the price. Bay fullback Gillies Kaka provided the initial thrust in a movement that went to the Counties Manukau goalmouth before the ball was spun back to the right where Kaka was on the end of the line to score, despite going over the line on his back. But, Counties Manukau goal-kicker Riley Hohepa kept his side in the hunt with an impressive display to go to half-time leading 9-8.
Bay of Plenty wing Emoni Narawa had three fast and strong second half runs before finally being rewarded with a try to give BOP a 13-12 lead, but that wasn't enough in the Tauranga sunshine. Hohepa had his sights in and landed his fifth goal from 50m out. He got his sixth, just after an attempted dropped goal slipped wide, to give Counties a lead they were able to hold onto for a key win.
Bay of Plenty 13 (Gillies Kaka, Emoni Narawa tries; Kaleb Trask pen) Counties Manukau 18 (Riley Hohepa 6 pen). HT: 8-9
Wellington 31 Taranaki 25
Slipping the first defender, second five-eighths Peter Umaga-Jensen crashed his way over the line to open the scoring. Taranaki had a try ruled out when an early tackle was ruled and Wellington, on the back of an intercept by wing Julian Savea, took play into the Taranaki 22m where the ball was eventually moved to left-wing Nehe Milner-Skudder to score.
Wellington got their big men working with ball in hand and No8 Peter Lakai scored before the break to give Wellington a 17-6 lead at the turn. No sooner had they returned to the field than another Savea run saw Lakai on hand to take a supporting pass to score his second. Taranaki first five-eighths Jason Potroz opened up a gap in the defence and ran through for the try. But the power of the home pack took over in response and Lakai put his power to use to complete his hat-trick of tries. Taranaki came back with two late tries to Kini Naholo and Pita Gus Sowakula. But in attempting to run the ball from their own 22m area, they threw a forward pass leaving Wellington secure.
Wellington 31 (Peter Umaga-Jensen, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Peter Lakai 3 tries; Aidan Morgan 3 con) Taranaki 25 (Jayson Potroz, Kini Naholo, Pita Gus Sowakula tries; Potroz con, 2 pen; Daniel Waite con). HT: 17-6
Northland 32 Southland 19
Solid Northland work up front created the opening chance for halfback Lisati Milo-Harris who sold a huge dummy to score. Ten minutes later a turnover allowed fullback Josh Moorby to punish his old team-mates on a 60m run before wing Heremaia Murray carried the move on by linking with centre Tamati Tua who had Milo-Harris in the clear inside him to pick up his second try. Southland got points at last when wing Viliami Fine capped off a southern lineout maul and backline effort to score. But right on the break Northland loosie Rob Rush scored from a lineout drive for a 27-7 lead.
That was a huge gap and while lock Joe Robins scored to help pull seven points back, it was a tall order going into the final quarter. It was put beyond doubt with a big pass from Moorby to Murray who scored untouched. Northland lost Dan Hawkins to a red card a minute out, but, from the penalty, Southland worked a maul and it was wing Rory van Vugt who got over in the corner.
Northland 32 (Lisati Milo-Harris 2, Rob Rush, Heremaia Murray tries; Rivez Reihana 3 con, 2 pen) Southland 29 (Viliami Fine, Joe Robins, Rory van Vugt tries; Marty Banks 2 con). HT: 27-7