Canterbury's 34-33 win over Auckland was enough to see it retain its Premiership place, but while finishing equal with Wellington on 29 points, along with Waikato, it was Waikato who secured the fourth place in the playoffs.
They will play minor Premiership winners Auckland at 2.05 on Saturday while defending champions Tasman will host the Bay of Plenty team who beat North Harbour 37-33, in Nelson at 7.05pm on Saturday.
In the Championship, top-placed Hawke's Bay will meet Taranaki, who they beat 34-33 on Sunday, at Napier at 4.35pm on Saturday while Otago will play Northland at 7.05pm in Dunedin on Friday.
Counties Manukau withstood what has become some traditionally tough Southland defence to score the only try in the first half, an effort that wore down the southern tacklers and provided enough room for centre Sione Molia to score wide out. Then, with Southland having Charles Alaimalo in the bin either side of halftime, it was halfback Cameron Roigar who waltzed through a big gap around a ruck to score their second. But in their best attacking passage in the game, Southland responded with Tevita Latu powering his way over and 10 minutes later it was skipper and No8 Tony Lamborn who utilised a powerful scrum to pull Southland back within two points. First five-eighths Jason Robertson landed two penalty goals to edge them beyond the seven-point margin and then backed it with a try to replacement hooker Zuriel Togiatama. Southland had a final response, in injury time, with Talemaitoga Tuapati, also a hooker replacement, scoring.
Counties Manukau 25 (Sione Molia, Cameron Roigar, Zuriel Togiatama tries; Jason Robertson 2 con, 2 pen) Southland 17 (Tevita Latu, Tony Lamborn, Talemaitoga Tuapati tries; Scott Eade con). HT: 7-0
Action started almost from the outset at Kaikohe when Waikato captain and flanker Luke Jacobson drove over for the first try only for Northland to strike back after centre Rene Ranger and second five-eighths Tamati Tua made breaks with the latter passing inside for halfback Sam Nock to respond with the try. Northland's second try was a triumph, a 25m rolling maul from which Waikato had no response with prop Lautangi Li scoring. Another try seemed likely, but an intercept by flanker Hamilton Burr found Valynce Crosby-Te Whare who raced 60m to score at the other end. But that was to be it for the visitors after first five-eighths Johnny Cooper's cross-field kick was fielded perfectly by hooker Jordan Olsen for a try. It was left to replacement back Scott Gregory to deliver the coup de grace
Northland 28 (Sam Nock, Lautangi Li, Jordan Olsen, Scott Gregory tries; Johnny Cooper 4 con) Waikato 17 (Luke Jacobson, Valynce Crosby-Te Whare tries; Beaudein Waaka 2 con, pen). HT: 14-17
Manawatu opened with a superb try as No8 Kirk Tufuga ran a fine angle to pierce the line and then have centre Josiah Maraku perfectly positioned outside him in support to complete the try. But off a strong surge at the line by prop Alex Fidow, it was prop Xavier Numia who burst through in midfield to score. Then, Fidow was involved again when passing to centre Billy Proctor who raced through a gap and then in-passed to wing Pepesana Patafilo one minute into the second half. Down to 14 men after replacement Drew Wild was sin-binned, Manawatu were unable to contain lively home backs who set up No8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas on the left flank for their third try. There was more to come when Patafilo intercepted a pass, ran hard and then threw a hail Mary pass which second five-eighths Ben Aso pulled in to score. And just on fulltime replacement first five-eighths Sam Smith crossed to seal the win.
Wellington 31 (Xavier Numia, Pepesana Patafilo, Teariki Ben-Nicholas, Vince Aso, Sam Smith tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 2 con, Billy Proctor con) Manawatu 5 (Josiah Maraku try). HT: 7-5
Otago asked an early question of Tasman when wing Freedom Vaha'akolo burned the defence to score the first try but 10 minutes later, in the 19th minute, Tasman freed Mark Telea on the right flank and saw him make ground before feeding second five-eighths Tim O'Malley inside him and he had the legs to outpace the defence to score. It took until the start of the final quarter before Tasman could put distance on Otago when after series of co-ordinated drives it was lock Quinten Strange who, at the bottom of a ruck, managed to deposit the ball over the line. But, six minutes from the end, wing Jona Nareki was fed into a wide gap and he passed inside for halfback Kayne Hammington to score. Otago finished hard on attack but a knock-on was enough for the challenge to end and Tasman to claim the win.
Otago 20 (Freedom Vaha'akolo, Kayne Hammington tries; Josh Ioane 2 con, 2 pen) Tasman 26 (Tim O'Malley, Quinten Strange tries; Mitchell Hunt 2 con, 4 pen). HT: 10-13
Out to a 28-10 lead by halftime, Taranaki looked an assured winner. But Hawke's Bay had different ideas. The first try was off a long pass by first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta that fell to land which was then tidied by wing Lewis Ormond for the try. Solomone Funaki replied for the Bay but Perofeta's doubling round saw him go in at the corner for Taranaki. Flanker Kaylum Boshier followed that with a try from a ruck on the line. Funaki was denied a second try just before halftime but there was no doubt two minutes into the second half when he drove over. Five minutes later, a blindside break produced reward for lock Tom Parsons' support play with a try. Taranaki scored their only try of the second half to loose forward Tom Florence and then after a penalty try got Hawke's Bay within four points, No8 Devan Flanders punched a hole in Taranaki's defence for the Ranfurly Shield holders to claim a one-point win.
Taranaki 33 (Lewis Ormond, Stephen Perofeta, Kaylum Boshier, Tom Florence tries; Jayson Potroz 2 con, 3 pen ) Hawke's Bay 34 (S Funaki 2, Tom Parsons, Devan Flanders tries; Penalty try; Caleb Makene 2 con, pen). HT: 28-10
North Harbour stormed out to a 21-8 lead, courtesy of a rolling maul lineout try for hooker Luteru Tolai and another that resulted in a penalty try, but when Bryn Hall's high box kick was taken brilliantly by Bay fullback Joe Webber fortunes turned for the home team in Tauranga. He not only climbed to take the ball, he beat two tackles after his descent and ran in the try for Bay to be within six points at the turn. Tolai scored a second at the start of the second half. Then fullback Kaleb Trask found a space in the backline with prop Jeff Thwaites going in under the posts. When first five-eighths Otere Black decided to run a North Harbour downfield kick, he linked with Trask who then reverse passed with wing Emoni Narawa, who unleashed his speed to run in and out of the defence to score out wide. The class continued when replacement Regan Ware used his stepping ability to crate a try for replacement hooker Nathan Vella. North Harbour scored another lineout maul try to replacement hooker Zane Turner but first five-eighths Bryn Gatland's missed conversion saw the game won moments later when Trask added a second penalty goal to ensure a semi-final berth.
Bay of Plenty 37 (Kurt Eklund, Joe Webber, Jeff Thwaites, Emoni Narawa, Nathan Vella tries; Kaleb Trask 3 con, 2 pen) North Harbour 33 (Luteru Tolai 2, Tomas Aoake, Zane Turner tries, Penalty try; Bryn Gatland 3 con). HT: 15-21
Auckland looked well on the way to a comfortable win when getting out to a 19-5 lead against Canterbury in Christchurch after Terrell Peita and Tanielu Tele'a scored tries to have them out to a 12-0 advantage after only six minutes. Wing Chay Fihaki pulled one back for Canterbury but then wing Salesi Rayesi finished off a move in the fashion that has marked his season. But with their season on the line Canterbury came out with impact in the second half by scoring four unanswered tries in a 23-minute blitz to centre Dallas McLeod, wing Ngatungane Punivai, lock Luke Romano and prop Oli Jager. But Auckland were not finished. Loose forward Presley Tufuga made up for his earlier sin-binning by helping reduce the margin to five before Rayasi pounced on a Canterbury dropped pass to pick up the ball and run away to score and reclaim a two-point lead. But conceding a penalty was the final cost as Fihaki stepped up and drilled it to give Canterbury a relegation-saving win.
Canterbury 34 (Chay Fihaki, Dallas McLeod, Ngatungane Punivai, Luke Romano, Oli Jager tries; Brett Cameron 3 con; Fihaki pen) Auckland 33 (Terrell Peita, Tanielu Tele'a, Salesi Rayasi 2, Presley Tufuga tries; Harry Plummer 4 con). HT: 5-19
Friday 20 November
Otago v Northland 7.05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium Dunedin
Saturday 21 November
Hawke’s Bay v Taranaki 4.35pm, McLean Park Napier
Saturday 21 November
Auckland v Waikato 2.05pm, Eden Park Auckland
Tasman v Bay of Plenty 7.05pm, Trafalgar Park Nelson