Canterbury beat Tasman 24-20 in Christchurch to move to 23 points and a share of third equal with Tasman and Wellington in the Premiership.
Hawke's Bay and Waikato are on 36 and 26 points respectively while Tasman and Wellington play each other and Canterbury will play Bay of Plenty. Waikato will play Otago.
In the Championship, frontrunner Taranaki is assured of first place and Manawatu and Otago have second and third sewn up. Northland's late loser's bonus point in their game in Invercargill may yet prove crucial as they are one point ahead of Southland who face a tough task to secure a bonus point from Taranaki in Inglewood.
Results from the weekend were:
Canterbury 24 Tasman 20
Canterbury lock Luke Romano is one of the more experienced players in Bunnings rugby in 2021 but he demonstrated leadership when it was most needed for his side to overcome a determined Tasman side in Christchurch on Friday. During the Canterbury fightback from 7-20 down heading into the final quarter, it appeared Romano was fired up to the do the job himself in an outstanding display, especially carrying the ball into the Tasman defence. It brought its own reward when he pulled off a sensational try from a lineout move that may or may not have worked as intended. But taking the ball from the sideline throw, he dummied to his hooker, then sensed the defenders had gone the other way. He ran the ball back on the blindside and found his way over for the try that pulled Canterbury back within sniffing difference. It was then a case of Canterbury continuing to pound the Tasman line before space was opened for second five-eighths Dallas McLeod to secure the match-winning try.
Canterbury 24 (Fergus Burke, Luke Romano, Dallas McLeod tries; Burke 3 con, pen) Tasman 20 (Quentin MacDonald try; Mitch Hunt 5 pen). HT: 7-9
Southland 37 Northland 33
Times were when the start Northland made in Invercargill would have forced the home team into their shell, 3-15 down in the first quarter would have been too much, especially with wing Pisi Leilua in such punishing form. But on a fine spring day in the south the Stags decided to roar. Marty Banks knocked over a couple of penalty goals before centre Isaac Te Tamaki and halfback Josh Renton sparked a try for Josh Moorby under the posts which was soon followed by another for wing Solomon Alaimalo and in 10 minutes they turned the score around to lead 20-15. A bit of Southland forward power convinced the TMO they scored the first try in the second half through Matt James and followed that with another to hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate. Northland responded with a piece of halfback Sam Nock-centre Rene Ranger magic they cut the margin. But they couldn't repeat it soon enough and while wing Jone Macilai-Tori scored for a bonus point in his 50th game it was a first for the season for Southland.
Southland 37 (Josh Moorby, Solomon Alaimalo, Matt James, Greg Pleasants-Tate tries; Marty Banks 4 con, 3 pen) Northland 33 (Pisi Leilua, Daniel Hawkins, Rene Ranger, Jone Macilai-Tori tries; Hawkins 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 23-18
Bay of Plenty 33 Waikato 37
Support play was never better demonstrated than in Waikato's opening salvo in Tauranga as they cashed in on an outlandish running catch by fullback Tepaea Cook-Savage which freed up Liam Coombes-Fabling down the sideline and saw him pass infield for halfback Cortez Ratima to sting BOP with the try. It proved a scene setter as Waikato ran in three more, including another supporter's try to Ratima while BOP responded with five tries of their own, the difference being the goal-kicking of Waikato's first five-eighths D'Angelo Leuila who landed 17 points when taking advantage of BOP indiscipline within goal-kicking distance.
Bay of Plenty 33 (Lucas Cashmore, Nathan Harris, Joe Webber, Leroy Carter, Emoni Narawa tries; Cashmore 4 con) Waikato 37 (Cortez Ratima 2, Mosese Dawai , Rupeni Tamani tries; D'Angelo Leuila 4 con, 3 pen). HT: 14-20
Manawatu 31 Hawke's Bay 40
It's a feature of New Zealand rugby that once Ranfurly Shield holders have put the trophy away for the winter, their concentration can lapse, but Hawke's Bay still have plenty to play for in 2021 and they didn't let their guard drop during a lively encounter with Manawatu in Palmerston North. Manawatu dominated the first half, leading 17-12 at the break, but Hawke's Bay proved again what a fine second-half side they by finishing with six tries to Manawatu's three. Three of them fell to wing Ollie Sapsford while two in quick succession were snared by second five-eighths Kieran Higgins. Nehe Milner-Skudder picked up two for Manawatu. It was the last regular season game for both sides but they will feature in the competition semifinals in a fortnight. Manawatu will host one Championship semifinal while Hawke's Bay, 10 points clear with the final round to be played, will await the outcome of final round games at the weekend to learn its opponent.
Manawatu 31 (Shamus Hurley-Langton, Liam Mitchell, Nehe Milner-Skudder 2 tries; Brett Cameron 3 con, pen; Stewart Cruden con) Hawke's Bay 40 (Ollie Sapsford 3, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Kieran Higgins 2 tries; Lincoln McClutchie con; C Makene 4 con). HT: 17-12
In non-competition action, Otago took out Wellington 33-28 in an entertaining spectacle under the roof in Dunedin.