Play­offs race murky with one round to go

Herald on Sunday - - IN OTHER NEWS -

The play­off race in the Mitre 10 Cup Cham­pi­onship re­mains mud­died with one round re­main­ing.

Wins to North­land and Bay of Plenty over their Cham­pi­onship ri­vals has kept the lad­der in flux, with four sides fight­ing for the three re­main­ing semi­fi­nal spots.

While Welling­ton have locked up top spot, the race is on to host the sec­ond semi­fi­nal, with just four points sep­a­rat­ing sec­ond and fifth. North­land are sec­ond on the lad­der on 25 points, fol­low­ing a com­fort­able 34-7 vic­tory over Hawke’s Bay. A dou­ble to Dan Pryor and a try to the al­so­dread­locked Rene Ranger saw them cruise, but they face a tough fin­ish to their sea­son, hav­ing to visit Welling­ton in their fi­nal match.

The same goes for Bay of Plenty, who ground out a 36-28 vic­tory over Otago to jump into third on 23 points. They fin­ish with a home game against Premier­ship strug­glers Waikato, and could be a chance to snare a re­sult if they show the same form they did against Otago.

The re­sult — and the late try which de­nied Otago a bonus point — dropped Otago to fifth on 21 points, but they have the eas­i­est game left against win­less South­land, and could fin­ish as high as sec­ond.

The last domino to fall will be fourth-placed Manawatu, on 22 points. They fin­ish with two games in a week — a Ran­furly Shield chal­lenge against Taranaki and a trip to Hawke’s Bay, likely need­ing to pick up one vic­tory to make the semi­fi­nals.

Otago 28 (F. Smith, J. Nareki, M. Fad­des tries; Smith con, pen; J. Ioane con, 2 pens) Bay of Plenty 36 (H. Blake, T. Hepetema, J. Web­ber, C. Ti­a­tia, L. Camp­bell tries; M. De­lany con, 3 pens). Half­time: 15-13.

North­land 34 (D. Pryor 2, R. Ranger, T. Bond tries; P. Breen 2 cons, pen; D. Hawkins 2 cons, pen) Hawke’s Bay 7 (C. Vaega try; I. West con). Half­time: 17-7.

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