Canterbury survived one of their most demanding encounters to beat a game Northland side 23-16 in Christchurch at the weekend, while Auckland had to come from behind to beat neighbours North Harbour with first five-eighths Harry Plummer landing a late penalty goal to win 21-18.
Wellington had to withstand a determined Hawke's Bay second-half recovery before claiming a home semifinal with a 28-21 win, while Bay of Plenty reversed their defeat in the final round of pool play to beat Waikato 34-27.
North Harbour's Bryn Gatland remained on top of the individual points scoring list with 139 points, ahead of Damian McKenzie (Waikato) on 123, Canterbury's Fergus Burke on 115 with Hawke's Bay's Lincoln McClutchie finishing the campaign on 97 points, four ahead of Bay of Plenty's Kaleb Trask who will have a chance to build on his 93 points.
North Harbour wing Tevita Li added another try to end his season at the top of the list with 13 tries.
Bunnings NPC Quarterfinal results:
North Harbour 18 Auckland 21
Withstanding applied Auckland pressure, especially from its scrum, North Harbour waited 36 minutes to seize its chance when after a powerful surge, as with many on the day, initiated by wing Mark Telea, it was first five-eighths Bryn Gatland who ran onto the ball at speed to force his way through defenders to score the opening try. However, in the process of attempting to stop the try wing Tomas Aoake was sin-binned when his knee hit the head of a players Gatland and his Auckland team-mate prop Angus Ta'avao, who was stretchered from the ground. Then, just before half-time, and following a long lineout maul, the ball was released with quick hands, and long passes, to give wing Tevita Li a try in the corner.
A yellow card against wing Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for an aerial challenge on Li was not so costly as Auckland applied the pressure and from a lineout ball 50 minutes into the game, flanker Akira Ioane muscled his way over for a try. A 58m penalty goal landed by fullback Shaun Stevenson took Harbour to a five-point lead with 12 minutes left. Auckland reverted to its forward power and, after Ioane and lock Patrick Tuipulotu had pick-and-go attempts to get over the line, replacement No8 Terrell Peita did the business to level the scores. But two seconds before fulltime, Auckland kicker Harry Plummer, who had a poor night of goal-kicking put that behind him as he stabbed the home side in the heart with a penalty goal.
North Harbour 18 (Bryn Gatland, Tevita Li tries; Gatland con, pen; Shaun Stevenson pen) Auckland 21 (Akira Ioane, Terrell Peita tries; Harry Plummer con, 3 pen). HT: 15-6
Wellington 28 Hawke's Bay 21
Wellington started fast in perfect conditions after first five-eighths Jackson Garden-Bachop's choice to lob a chip kick behind the Hawke's Bay defence allowed by wing Tata Filo who gathered the ball on the fly before passing to second five-eighths to Peter Umaga-Jensen who was caught short of the line. But with the ball moved, with right-wing Julian Savea in the line, room was created for fullback Ruben Love to score out wide. At the 10-minute mark Bay hooker Tyrone Thompson was sent to the sin-bin for collapsing a maul while Wellington benefited with a penalty try called. A Garden-Bachop dropped goal had Wellington out to an 18-0 lead at the turn.
Hawke's Bay finally staunched the scoring wound when fullback Chase Tiatia found second five-eighths Danny Toala who ran into open real estate finding halfback Brad Weber in support and his pass put Weber in for the try. With 16 minutes left, a strong surge downfield resulted in first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie gassing his way into a gap to get the ball over the line in the tackle. Then, five minutes later some powerful forward play was rewarded when loose forward Josh Kaifa got over the line to give the Bay a 21-18 lead. Wellington reclaimed the lead when replacement halfback Richard Judd, initiated a move and when centre Billy Proctor was tackled on the line, Judd was on hand to grab the ball for the simplest of tries. Into the final minute, Garden-Bachop sealed the semifinal place with a 50m penalty goal.
Wellington 28 (Ruben Love, Richard Judd tries; Penalty try; Jackson Garden-Bachop con, 2 pen, dropped goal) Hawke's Bay 21 (Brad Weber, Lincoln McClutchie, Josh Kaifa tries; McClutchie 3 con). HT: 18-0
Canterbury 23 Northland 16
Canterbury took only two minutes to make their mark on the game when working a lineout move that saw prop Tamaiti Williams getting up a head of steam to run around the front of the lineout, collect the lineout ball thrown to him and charge across with ease for the opening try. Northland responded with a penalty goal but soon after lost midfielder Blake Hohaia to a yellow card for tackling Canterbury halfback Mitch Drummond when he was in the air fielding a kick. While Northland initially held out wing Manasa Mataele in the resulting play, they couldn't contain the home team and hooker Brodie McAlister scored in the 11th minute to extend the lead.
Turning with the wind at their back, Northland firstly conceded a penalty goal, but then their forwards upped their game and flanker Jona Mau'u crossed in the 46th minute. No more tries were posted but with five minutes remaining replacement first five-eighth Daniel Hawkins got Northland within four points. However, Canterbury's pack put their heads down with Burke landed his third penalty goal of the game to give his side the buffer needed to ensure their progress.
Canterbury 23 (Tamaiti Williams, Brodie McAlister tries; Fergus Burke 2 con, 3 pen) Northland 16 (Jona Mau'u try; Rivez Reihana con, pen; Dan Hawkins 2 pen). HT: 17-3
Waikato 27 Bay of Plenty 34
Waikato lock Laghlan McWhannell scored the most unlikeliest of tries when standing in midfield and receiving a pass, only to see a huge gap open in front of him. He raced through and ran 22m untouched to score. It took nearly 15 minutes but Bay of Plenty replied after a stunning individual break by wing Nigel Ah Wong which resulted in flanker Naitoa Ah Kuoi scoring wide out. Seven minutes from halftime McWhannell had a harder road to the line, but he broke four tackle attempts to score his second.
Waikato's discipline slipped as replacement Wharenui Hawera landed three consecutive penalty goals to give BOP a 19-14 lead but then they conceded two penalties which first five-eighths Damian McKenzie converted to reclaim the lead. But when Ah Wong, replacement back Lalamilo Lalamilo and Ah Kuoi combined for the latter to score his second try, the home team were in trouble. Moments later Waikato, in attempting to run the ball, dropped it in the backline and when lock Justin Sangster grabbed the ball he poured on the pace to draw the defence and then gave wing Leroy Carter the free run in to score. A long-range penalty goal from Hawera secured the win with centre Bailyn Sullivan left to secure a consolation try for Waikato on fulltime.
Waikato 27 (Laghlan McWhannell 2, Bailyn Sullivan tries; Damian McKenzie 2 con, 2 pen; Jack Lam con) Bay of Plenty 34 (Naitoa Ah Kuoi 2, Leroy Carter tries; Kaleb Trask con, pen; Wharenui Hawera con, 4 pen). HT: 14-10
Friday 14th October
Wellington vs. Auckland
SKY Stadium, 7.05pm KO
Saturday 15th October
Canterbury vs. Bay of Plenty
Orangetheory Stadium, 7.05pm KO