27 Sep 2014

Taranaki seal semi-final spot

2:50 pm on 27 September 2014

Taranaki have booked their place in provincial rugby's semi-finals after holding off a fast-finishing Auckland side to claim a four-try bonus point 35-22 victory in New Plymouth.

Taranaki celebrate. ITM Cup Rugby, Taranaki v Auckland. September, 2014.

Taranaki celebrate. ITM Cup Rugby, Taranaki v Auckland. September, 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The result wasn't confirmed until after the final whistle, with midfield back Charlie Ngatai scoring the bonus-point fourth try from an intercept as Auckland pushed to score the winning try of their own.

The win lifts Taranaki to the first in the Premiership standings, though defending champions Canterbury can reclaim top spot when they host Southland on Sunday.

Auckland remain fourth in the Premiership in the final playoff spot, five points ahead of Waikato.

Northland climbed to third and level on points with second-placed Hawkes Bay in provincial rugby's Championship division after sneaking past Bay of Plenty 30-27 in Tauranga.

It was a hard fought match with both sides scoring three tries a piece, though it was the Taniwha who emerged with the four points.

In the end the teams were only separated by a penalty, Northland landing the winning kick with just two minutes to go.

The win firms the Taniwha's chances of making the playoffs, while last placed Bay of Plenty are now front-runners for the wooden spoon after North Harbour lifted themselves off the foot of the ladder with Wednesday night's stunning upset win over Canterbury.

Northland host North Harbour next Friday night while Bay of Plenty host Otago next Saturday.

In the opening game of the week, Harbour recorded a 29-24 upset over Canterbury in Albany to hand the defending champions their first loss of the provincial rugby season.

No one would have picked it before the match with Harbour sitting dead last in the Championship standings, while Canterbury top the Premiership and look well on track for a seventh consecutive national title.

The visitors started well, scoring a try after just 16 seconds and bagging their second not long after.

However Canterbury were then held scoreless until the second half.

Harbour played well apart from the shaky start with midfielder Matt McGahan putting in a powerful performance.

The hosts lead 19-14 at half-time.

Canterbury are midway through their difficult week of quick turn-around's and will now head back to Christchurch to re-group and prepare for Southland on Sunday.

Harbour will attempt to maintain their winning momentum when they host Hawkes Bay on Saturday night.

Canterbury still top the Premiership standings following the loss, while Harbour are second bottom in the Championship, despite the win.