Hawke's Bay have a game in hand on 19 points with Tasman second on 18, one point ahead of Waikato, which also has a game in hand. Wellington is on 16 points with Canterbury on 15. Bay of Plenty completes the group on 13 points.
Taranaki's win over Otago lifted them to the top of the Championship ladder on 22 points, with Manawatu on 18 and a big gap back to Northland on six and Otago on five.
Wellington 35 Canterbury 30
Wellington made the perfect start off a Canterbury passing error which saw Julian Savea pick up the dropped ball to give second five-eighths Peter Umaga-Jensen a clear run to the line touching down 64sec after the start. But far better things awaited him. Hooker Dane Coles sent a message to the All Blacks' camp with a lovely run and sidestep in the build-up to flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi's 15th minute try, with the scoring at better than run-a-minute. Not to be outdone lock Sam Whitelock showed similar touch off a break by halfback Mitch Drummond to set up a try under advantage for wing Manasa Mataele. First five-eighths Fergus Burke's chip into the in-goal saw the bounce favour fullback Josh McKay to get the score to 17-15. Mataele scored the first try of the second half diving in at the corner to make the score 23-22. With prop Alex Fidow in the sin-bin, Canterbury worked a lovely blindside move to get right wing Chay Fihaki over out wide. Down by seven with seven to play, Wellington camped in the Canterbury 22 with a yellow card to lock Luke Romano conceded and an 81st minute try to Fidow to level the scores. Then in golden point time, Kirifi broke out wide, linked with replacement halfback Connor Collins and he had Umaga-Jensen exactly where he needed to be to run in the match-winner.
Wellington 35 (Peter Umaga-Jensen 2, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Alex Fidow tries; Ruben Love 3 con, 3 pen) Canterbury 30 (Manasa Mataele 2, Josh McKay, Chay Fihaki tries; Fergus Burke 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 20-15. FT: 30-30
Hawke's Bay 34 Tasman 22
Ranfurly Shield rugby is all about getting a solid start and a Hawke's Bay turnover in its 22m area in the third minute ended 80m downfield in a superb try for halfback Ereatara Enari. Flanker Brendon O'Connor, 10 minutes later, was on hand when centre Stacey Eli and wing Jonah Lowe helped take the ball to the line, for O'Connor to power across for the try. Three minutes later the job was all ahead of Tasman after Ili and wing Neria Fomai combined on the left flank to provide fullback Lolagi Visinia with a support man's try. Ili had his reward for an outstanding contribution to the first half when Lowe made a bullocking run at the line before Ili got across from the ruck to extend the lead to 24-9. Eight minutes from the half, No8 Shannon Frizell finally got over for Tasman and with first five-eighths Mitch Hunt landing four penalty goals they were within five points at the break. Three more 12 minutes into the second half got them within two points. But all that did was lift the Bay and Fomai got over in the corner to extend their lead. Two minutes from the end it was left to replacement first five Tiaan Falcon to seal the deal with a 48m penalty goal.
Hawke's Bay 34 (Ereatara Enari, Brendon O'Connor, Lolagi Visinia, Stacey Ili, Neria Fomai tries; Lincoln McClutchie 3 con; Tiaan Falcon pen) Tasman 22 (Shannon Frizell try; Mitch Hunt, con, 5 pen). HT: 24-19
Otago 23 Taranaki 30
Double penalty goals were exchanged during the first half hour before first five-eighths Jayson Potroz's dummy inside pass opened space outside for second five Teihorangi Walden to score the opening try in the 30th minute for Taranaki. But Otago continued to stay in touch after a superb midfield break by second five-eighths Ray Nu'u. He took play to the Taranaki line before flicking a pass off the ground to centre Patesio Tomkinson who scored by the posts. Into the second half Otago lost flanker Sam Fischli to the sin-bin for a lineout infringement although it took Taranaki nine minutes before they could take advantage with No8 Pita-Gus Sowakula picking up the ball from the back of a scrum, running the blind and then straightening to go in under the posts. Otago No8 Dylan Nel didn't have to run as far but burrowed over from a goal-line maul to see the scores levelled at 20-20. It was 23-23 when Potroz opened up the line again and his inside pass found replacement halfback Liam Blyde for Taranaki to claim the win.
Otago 23 (Patesio Tomkinson, Dylan Nel tries; Josh Ioane 2 con, 3 pen) Taranaki 30 (Teihorangi Walden, Pita-Gus Sowakula, Liam Blyde tries; Stephen Perofeta 3 con, 3 pen). HT: 13-13
Southland 27 Manawatu 38
Southland's pack provided some early scrum concerns for Manawatu in Invercargill. Into the second quarter the pack provided a chance for halfback Josh Renton to send first five-eighths Marty Banks on a probing run before the ruck was set up for No8 Tony Lamborn to pick up and drive over for the try. Banks set Southland alight again with a tap penalty that almost saw second-five Tevita Latu across. Instead, it was fullback Solomon Alaimalo, who took advantage of quick ball, to beat the visitors' defence to score. Southland conceded a penalty at the 40-minute mark after a strong run by fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder, and it was first five-eighths Brett Cameron who made Southland pay with a converted try. Turning to No8 Brayden Iose to create momentum, Manawatu make the most of it to provide wing Ed Fidow with the try that levelled the score at 20-20. Replacement back Matt Whaanga led Southland's response with a try against the run of play. But Fidow was in the action again moments later when fielding an attempted kick ahead by Southland wing Amanaki Nicole and running 30m unchallenged to score a try. A missed penalty goal by Banks kept Manawatu in front and they secured the win when lock Liam Mitchell caps some fine work by replacement back Taniela Filimone to score and sink home team hopes.
Southland 27 (Tony Lamborn, Solomon Alaimalo, M Whaanga tries; Marty Banks 3 con, 2 pen) Manawatu 38 (Brett Cameron, E Fidow 2, L Mitchell tries; Cameron 3 con, 4 pen). HT: 20-13