Taranaki's successful excursion to Christchurch was the highlight of an action-packed weekend, but Wellington's 39-21 demolition job on Auckland wasn't far behind.
Tasman, after a 54-21 win over Northland and Waikato who beat North Harbour 41-19 are the pacesetters in the competition as the only unbeaten sides in the Premiership.
Tasman 54 Northland 21
Northland got a short, sharp jab to remind them about what life is like at the sharp end of the Mitre 10 Cup from Tasman. The game was only 2min 6sec old when All Blacks' wing Sevu Reece scored the first of his three tries. Northland kept Tasman honest at Lansdowne Park in Blenheim during the first half but the spirit of adventure Tasman play with emerged in the second half with some superb tries. Fullback Will Jordan capped off the best which started in their own 22m area with a kick to the wing from David Havili. With outside backs Fetuli Paea and Leicester Faingaanuku doing all the hard work to keep the ball alive, Jordan was on hand in support to score. Northland showed plenty of courage with Kara Pryor and Tom Robinson mixing it in the loose.
Tasman 54 (Sevu Reece 3, Leicester Faingaanuku, Andrew Makalio, Fetuli Paea, Will Jordan, Jacob Norris; Mitchell Hunt 5 con; Tim O'Malley 2 con) Northland 21 (Kara Pryor, Harrison Levien, Luatanga Li tries; Wiseguy Faiane 3 con). HT: 19-7
Waikato 41 North Harbour 19
Waikato's speed, not only in the backline but also in support play, outdid a North Harbour side who looked useful in their set-piece play but who lacked the level of flair Waikato achieved, from halfback Xavier Roe through first five-eighths Fletcher Smith, second five-eighths Anton Lienert-Brown, centre Quinn Tupaea and replacement wing Valanyce Te Whare to fullback Damian McKenzie, whose try was a classic example of speed and support. Flanker Mitch Jacobson popped up all over the field. However, a try from a lineout drive may never be better demonstrated than that achieved by North Harbour to open their scoring with hooker Lutero Tolai capping a 15m drive. They attempted to repeat from 20m out and while Tolai was stopped just short, lock Jacob Pierce was on hand to pick up and score.
Waikato 41 (Xavier Roe, Quinn Tupaea, Mitch Jacobson, Damian McKenzie, Valynce Te Whare; McKenzie 4 con, pen) North Harbour 19 (Lutero Tolai, Jacob Pierce, Lewis Gjatema tries; Bryn Gatland 2 con). HT: 29-12
Canterbury 22 Taranaki 23
Unrelenting defence, highlighted by an outstanding breakdown/turnover dominance achieved by flanker Lachlan Boshier, saw Taranaki stun Ranfurly Shield holders Canterbury when leading 20-3 at halftime in Christchurch. As was to be expected, the Canterbury [read Crusaders] playing hierarchy stepped up in the second half to reclaim a 22-20 lead with 10 minutes remaining. But fullback Jordie Barrett, who had an off day with his goal-kicking, had no problem with a 50m effort to reclaim the lead which allowed Taranaki to count down the clock to win consecutive challenges against Canterbury on their home soil. Probe as Canterbury might, it couldn't find the line often enough due to resolute defence and in the final count it was a deserved Taranaki victory.
Canterbury 22 (Oli Jager, Richie Mo'unga, Andrew Knewstubb tries; Mo'unga 2 con, pen) Taranaki 23 (Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneeepkens 2, Tupou Vaa'i tries; Jordie Barrett con, 2 pen). HT: 3-20
Bay of Plenty 17 Southland 14
This was a good old-fashioned slug-fest, two tries apiece with Bay of Plenty first five-eighths Otere Black's penalty goal the difference on the scoreboard. The nature of the game is reflected in its statistics. Tied up 14-14 at halftime, it had featured some running play from both sides in the first half and then a thorough test of their respective defensive patterns, especially close to their own lines, in the second. Bay of Plenty deserved their win in the end, securing crucial turnovers when it mattered most, not least in the final moments when All Blacks' captain Sam Cane denied Southland a final thrust for victory. By the same token, Southland looked a team on the improve playing with more confidence than it has enjoyed for several seasons.
Bay of Plenty 17 (F Fuatai, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi tries; Otere Black 2 con, pen) Southland 14 (Amanaki Nicole, Greg Pleasants-Tate tries; Scott Eade 2 con). HT: 14-14
Hawke's Bay 31 Counties Manukau 17
Relishing the opportunity to get their support game flowing, after their disappointing first round loss to Southland, Hawke's Bay turned on the class in a first-half display that left a bridge too far for Counties Manukau to get themselves back in the game in Napier. The visitors hadn't helped themselves when suffering yellow cards to No 8 Sam Slade and lock Mickey Woolliams, their times overlapping for two minutes. All Blacks' halfback Brad Weber scored two tries, one of them an in-the-corner effort while a superb set-piece play from a lineout on halfway saw centre Stacey Ili complete a classic outside break to link with fullback Kurt Baker before wing Lolagi Visinia scored in the corner to give the Bay a 26-10 lead at the turn. They only scored once in the second half but that too was a memorable long-range effort completed by No 8 Devan Flanders.
Hawke's Bay 31 (Brad Weber 2, Lolagi Visinia, Devan Flanders tries; Penalty try; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con) Counties Manukau 17 (Kiris Kuridrani, Sam Slade tries; Baden Kerr con, pen; Jason Robertson pen). HT: 26-10.
Manawatu 25 Otago 36
Giving away two interceptions is not advisable at the best of times but when Vilimoni Koroi and Michael Collins are on the receiving end that is always going to make life difficult. Manawatu learned that when going down 25-36 to Otago in Palmerston North. Manawatu had looked the more likely when having usual halfback Jamie Booth playing on the wing and scoring the opening try. But Otago struck back when hooker Liam Coltman showed that it wasn't only outside backs who could burst onto the ball at speed to break through gaps to run 20 metres to score. Down 8-36 with 14 minutes remaining, Manawatu did finish in a rush with halfback Aaron Smith scoring twice, one from a classic dart into space around a ruck, and Micaiah Torrence-Read scoring the last of the game.
Manawatu 25 (Jamie Booth, Aaron Smith 2, Micaiah Torrence-Read tries; Ben Wyness pen; Stewart Cruden con) Otago 36 (Vilimoni Koroi 2, Liam Coltman, Freedom Vahaakolo, Michael Collins tries; Josh Ioane 4 con pen). HT: 8-14
Auckland 21 Wellington 39
Hitting Auckland behind the advantage line at every opportunity, Wellington induced multiple mistakes on the home team at Eden Park as they needed to after their first round loss to Waikato. They absorbed early Auckland pressure but unable to turn possession into points, Auckland looked frustrated and Wellington pounced. Flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi kept the pressure on at the breakdown and while Auckland looked to get into positions to score, especially during a scrum fest just out from Wellington's line in the third quarter, they were still unable to produce the points they needed. As a consequence, it was Wellington who had the confidence to finish better with Vince Aso picking up a brace on a day when their outside backs, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Billy Proctor and Wes Goosen all took advantage of opportunities in better fashion than Auckland achieved.
Auckland 21 (Leni Apisai, Jonathan Ruru, Caleb Clarke tries: Harry Plummer 3 con) Wellington 39 (Vince Aso 2, Wes Goosen, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Billy Proctor, Pepesano Patafilo tries; Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 con, pen). HT: 14-29