Waikato played out a thrilling 43-37 win over Wellington in Hamilton on Sunday while Tasman had a more gruelling contest with Auckland before taking advantage of a basic slip by the goalposts by fullback Salesi Rayasi to claim a 16-11 win at home in Nelson.
However, it is still early days with all seven teams within five points of each other.
In the Championship, Taranaki, after a convincing 48-14 win over Northland are four points clear. Manawatu, who pushed Canterbury close in a 22-25 loss are in second place with North Harbour and Otago sharing third on four points.
Counties Manukau 6 North Harbour 14
Goal-kicking still has a place and that was evident in this Friday night encounter in Pukekohe where the home team failed to capitalise on early chances for tries. North Harbour were also unable to penetrate the Counties Manukau defences early, but in their case they had the goal-kicking boot of first five-eighths Bryn Gatland to keep rewards coming to the point where North Harbour led 9-0 at halftime. Counties Manukau launched some heavy-duty driving play in the North Harbour 22m but handling issues denied them tries, although a 50m penalty goal from wing Jarrod Halliday got them within three points. But North Harbour struck back immediately when consecutive backline moves resulted in wing Moses Leo moving in from the flank with fullback Shaun Stevenson running outside to pull in a ball going behind him to find rare vacant space in the 22m area to run in a 69th minute try.
Counties Manukau 6 (Jarrod Halliday 2 pen) North Harbour 14 (Shaun Stevenson try; Bryn Gatland 3 pen). HT: 0-9
Canterbury 25 Manawatu 22
Manawatu visits to Christchurch are rarely dull affairs and Saturday proved no exception, Manawatu scoring their first when halfback Mitch Drummond couldn't touch the bouncing ball down 1min 40sec into the game as Logan Henry did score. But wing Chay Fihaki provided the Canterbury response within two minutes from a Manawatu kick deflection. Hooker Shilo Klein got over from a Canterbury maul before Fihaki showed his power on the fend to score his second after 31 minutes. Drummond scored an outrageous try with a superb dummy three minutes into the second half to extend the lead to 22-10. Replacement prop Jarred Adams showed his ability on the corkscrew to pull Manawatu back into the game with a try. Manawatu launched a wave of attacks and eventually success came from a blocked grubber kick as flanker Shamus Hurley-Langton secured the untidy ball and bullocked his way over the line. But Canterbury had the final say to claim the win.
Canterbury 25 (Chay Fihaki 2, Shilo Klein, Mitch Drummond tries; Fergus Burke con, pen) Manawatu 22 (Logan Henry, Jarred Adams, Shamus Hurley-Langton; Brent Cameron 2 con, pen). HT: 17-10
Tasman 16 Auckland 11
In a game that produced only one try apiece, Auckland claimed the first try courtesy of a 50-22 which set up driving play at the line and it was a clever backpass by halfback Jonathan Ruru to fullback Salesi Rayasi ,running close off Ruru, that allowed him to corkscrew his way over the line in the tackle. But with 14 minutes remaining, Rayasi wasn't able to clear a long downfield kick from Tasman first five-eighths Mitch Hunt. Attempting to pick the ball up by a goalpost, he fell over and the ball was knocked on. From the scrum, Shannon Frizell ran off the scrum and passed to wing Leicester Fainga'anuku running a line off Frizell to score what proved the game decider, although it took 3 mins 35sec of desperate injury time defence to secure the win.
Tasman 16 (Leicester Fainga'anuku try; Mitch Hunt con, 3pen) Auckland 11 (Salesi Rayesi try; Harry Plummer 2 pen). HT: 6-11
Hawke's Bay 34 Otago 10
Ranfurly Shield challengers always need to make an immediate impact and Otago did that with centre Freedom Vaha'akolo running a lovely line off halfback Kayne Hammington to prise open the home defence in the 18th minute to score. But Hawkes' Bay absorbed the pressure and took their chance from a midfield scrum where the ball was moved wide for wing Neria Fomai to cross. Moments later fullback Lolagi Visinia won the race from a grubber kick to the in-goal to give the Bay a 14-7 halftime lead. Centre Stacey Ili's low running style got him over 11 minutes into the second half. Replacement loose forward Josh Kaifa showed his strength and determination to score a bullocking try on the right flank and it was left to wing Jonah Lowe to secure his own chip kick in injury time to wrap up a commanding win.
Hawke's Bay 34 (Neria Fomai, Lolagi Visinia, Stacey Ili, Josh Kaifa, Jonah Lowe tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con; Tiaan Falcon con, pen) Otago 10 (Freedom Vaha'akolo try; Vilimoni Koroi con, pen). HT: 14-7
Southland 11 Bay of Plenty 31
Fijian left-wing Onisi Ratave announced himself onto the New Zealand rugby scene with an outstanding performance for Bay of Plenty in Invercargill. It was his midfield break that resulted in the first try of the game, scored by flanker Mitch Karpik, who was perfectly positioned to take a pass to score when Ratave was tackled. Six minutes into the second half Southland responded when centre Isaac Te Tamaki fired a huge pass to blindside flanker Charles Alaimalo on the left flank who scored. But then a tip tackle proved costly for Southland as it set up a chance for Bay of Plenty to move the ball for centre Sean Wainui to go across. Two penalty goals to replacement Marty Banks got Southland close, but that was before Ratave was given space on the blindside, and he made no error. When Alaimalo was sin-binned for a retaliation play, Bay of Plenty completed their win as flanker Nikora Broughton scored after a scrum.
Southland 11 (Charles Alaimalo try; Marty Banks 2 pen) Bay of Plenty 31 (Mitch Karpik, Sean Wainui, Onisi Ratave, Nikora Broughton tries; Kaleb Trask 4 con, pen). HT: 0-10
Waikato 43 Wellington 37
Hamilton turned on a try fest, the activity opening with similar looking tries posted on the left flanks, firstly for Waikato's Mosese Dawai and then Pepesana Patafilo who responded. Wellington made the most of a strong midfield break by second five-eighths Peter Umaga-Jensen to give Patafilo his second try. After flanker Du'Plessis Kirifi scored, the Wellington backs cashed in on a turnover as first five-eighths Ruben Love showed blistering pace to clear out downfield. When stopped, the ruck produced ball that allowed centre Julian Savea to create a 27-8 gap. Then Wellington went to the break on a 34-8 lead after an Umaga-Jensen intercept. A Savea sin-binning for a dangerous tackle didn't bode well as Jack Lam scored in resulting play for Waikato and moments later hooker Oliver Norris got over as well. Wellington's only second half points were from a penalty goal and no sooner had they kicked that than halfback Cortez Ratima scored for Waikato. Flanker Liam Messam went over from a maul, and there was only one point in it. Wing Liam Coombes-Fabling hit the backline at speed to find wide open spaces which he used to perfection to score the matchwinner, a superb comeback for Waikato.
Waikato 43 (Mosese Dawai, Jack Lam, Oliver Norris, Cortez Ratima, Liam Messam, Liam Coombes-Fabling tries; Fraser Smith 5 con, pen) Wellington 37 (Pepesana Patafilo 2, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Julian Savea, Peter Umaga-Jensen tries; Ruben Love 3 con, pen; Brandyn Laursen pen). HT: 8-34
Northland 14 Taranaki 48
Northland opened the scoring with a try from a lineout drive going to prop Leka Tu'ingafasi 10 minutes into the game. Taranaki looked to attack their way out of deficit and had a try to wing Kini Naholo ruled out early in the second quarter. But they had better luck five minutes out from halftime when centre Daniel Waite regained control of the ball after it hit his chest to score. A red card to No8 Isi Manu for a high shot on fullback Stephen Perofeta was seized upon by Taranaki with Perofeta landing the penalty and then they used a lineout maul for hooker Ricky Riccitelli to claim the try. Another lineout win saw Perofeta, who had a fine game controlling his side, give Naholo another chance and he took it to score. Perofeta once again opened up the chance for replacement Shaan Waite to score. Replacement prop Kaliopasi Uluilakepa got one back for Northland but from a scrum, Perofeta stepped in and created space for Naholo to score his second try and within a minute replacement back Daniel Rona kicked the ball ahead and regained control to toe it over the line to score. Perofeta completed an outstanding goal-kicking display, converting all six of Taranaki's tries.
Northland 14 (Leka Tu'ungafasi, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa tries; Rivez Reihana 2 con) Taranaki 48 (Daniel Waite, Ricky Riccitelli, Kini Naholo 2, Shaan Waite, Daniel Rona tries; Stephen Perofeta 6 con, 2 pen). HT: 7-10