South Canterbury upset champions
A long-range Savea try from a Jackson Garden-Bachop intercept, then a stunner from hooker-of-themoment Asafo Aumua, saw Wellington lead 17-7 at halftime before two chargedown tries saw them bolt to a 31-7 lead with 30 minutes left to play.
While his side were at times lacking direction in their latest contest, they managed to march on to a fourth win from five starts, secure a bonus point, and sit third on the premiership ladder.
One point ahead of the Naki are the five-from-five North Harbour, who got out of jail for a 31-22 win over Northland in Whangarei on Thursday night.
Harbour had been well below what they had showed prior in this campaign, but, even after trailing 22-17 with seven minutes to play, managed to keep their unbeaten start to the season intact, as Ben Volavola sliced through, then Matt Vaega plucked an intercept for a 40-metre runaway.
Waikato are next to challenge Canterbury for the shield but their form has tailed off big time after losing a third straight game - 23-10 to championship side Manawatu in Hamilton on Saturday.
The Mooloos led 10-3 nearing the hour-mark, but a try off the back of a powerful scrum from Hamish Brewer - son of former All Black Mike - then the boot of Jade Te Rure guided the Turbos to victory, and into fourth spot on the championship ladder.
Waikato, having played one more game than the three teams above them, now sit fifth in the premiership, and even Auckland are only now three points back, after they notched just their second win from six starts in a 27-17 result over Southland in Invercargill on Friday night.
The hosts opened the scoring after just three minutes, but they remain the only winless team in the competition - rooted to the bottom of the championship ladder on zero points - as All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino got the visitors’ account started, with Auckland going on to collect the bonus point.
Tasman climbed into fourth spot on the premiership ladder after holding on for a dramatic 29-27 win over Otago in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Makos were up 29-13 early in the second spell thanks to referee Mike Fraser awarding a penalty try and sinbinning Otago first five-eighth Josh Ioane for an intentional knock-down.
In the early game yesterday, Counties Manukau rebounded from their midweek thrashing in the shield challange to score five tries, including a Tim NanaiWilliams double, to beat struggling Hawke’s Bay 33-14. South Canterbury inflicted Wanganui’s first loss in two years in the Heartland Championship with a heart-stopping 21-17 victory in Timaru.
The defending champions dominated the first half but led only 14-7 at the break and South Canterbury stole the game in the last 10 minutes with tries to wing Kavavini Leatigago and No 8 Brad Hemopo.
The win lifted South Canterbury to the top of the table, leapfrogging Wanganui, Horowhenua Kapiti and Buller to open up a two-point lead..
South Canterbury’s defence proved too tough for Wanganui to break, while the visitors’ ill discipline saw them heavily penalised, giving away penalties 10 in the first half.
For South Canterbury, prop JP Koen, lock Luke Brice and Hemopo played well, while Leatigago was dangerous every time he was in space.
Wanganui’s best were lock Sokonaia Kalou and first-five Craig Clare, while second-five Timoci Seruwalu tried to spark the attack.
The upsets continued with West Coast inflicting Horowhenua Kapiti’s first defeat of the season with a 24-18 win in Greymouth. The Coasters led all the way with first-five Tom Reekie and fullback Nik Cumming standouts.
In the forwards Troy Tauwhare played strongly in his 50th appearance while lock Lawrence Babe made a big impression in his last game before heading to Hong Kong to take up a professional contract. Halfback Jarred Ferguson also had his moments and grabbed two tries in the bonus-point win.
For Horowhenua Kapiti, prop Tiwana Paringatai had an excellent game while captain Ryan Shelford made his usual impact.
Thames Valley also surprised with a four-try, 26-7 win over previously unbeaten Buller in Paeroa.
Tighthead prop George Lelenoa and lock Connor McVerry led the way for the Swamp Foxes while hooker Hayden Wisnewski also stood out.
It was Wisnewski’s 50m-plus intercept try that sunk Buller midway through the second half, after which they struggled to have any real impact.
The game was held up for 70 minutes after Thames Valley prop Hayden Anderson broke his leg just after the start.
North Otago and Mid Canterbury both kept their Meads Cup semifinal hopes alive with contrasting wins.
The OId Golds edged out fastfinishing King Country 28-26 in Oamaru, after scoring a try and landing a penalty with a King Country player in the bin.
Lock Don Lolo, who scored two tries, No 8 Mika Mafi and prop Ralph Darling had strong games up front while first five Dan Lewis and veteran Lemi Masoe were the best of the backs.
In Masterton, Mid Canterbury inflicted a big loss on Wairarapa Bush, running in nine tries to four in the 60-24 win.
For Mid Canterbury, Willie McGoon and former All Black Regan King scored two tries each.
In the battle for the wooden spoon, Poverty Bay proved too good for East Coast, scoring five tries in winning 35-15 in Gisborne.
South Canterbury wing Kalavini Leatigago scores a brilliant individual try against Wanganui as his side upset the defending champions.