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Taieri has set the benchmark all season and will host University, which limped into the top six with just two wins from eight games.
Dunedin edged Southern on the weekend, but will need to do it all again on Saturday. It is at home against the Magpies.
And Harbour has the home advantage against Kaikorai in the last of the three playoff games.
The three winners and highest-ranked loser will progress to the semifinals.
Harbour was able to wheel on a couple of Super Rugby players in the second half and it helped make the difference.
University’s Super Rugby players apparently spent the day fishing.
Well, at least that is what the faithful were grumbling about on the sideline.
The season was on the line and University needed all the help it could get during the 31-24 defeat at Watson Park.
The visitors started well, though. Arguably it was one of their better halves this season.
Elusive fullback Jermaine Pepe dived across in the corner after a solid build-up.
Centre Ivan Hill scampered in after Harbour missed touch and impressive halfback Kieran McClea made a telling run to help set up the try.
Otago is short of a couple of halfbacks and could do worse than McClea, who had a quality game.
Harbour had lost midfielder Aleki Morris-Lome early and were not as organised on defence as a result.
The Hawks’ accuracy dipped dangerously low as well. But lock Taylor Dale barged through several tackles to score against the run of play and close the gap to 16-7 at halftime.
Harbour brought on Highlanders prop Saula Ma’u and Moana Pasifika front-rower Abraham Pole to beef up the pack.
The Hawks used that platform to scored four unanswered tries and clinch the win.
The attacking attributes of centre Filipo Whitehouse-Opetaia Tovio was just one of the many hallmarks stamped on Kaikorai’s 52-20 victory over Alhambra-Union at Bishopscourt.
The scoreline did little justice to the contribution a depleted Alhambra-Union made to a match contested with feeling.
AU’s expansive style of play was to the fore from the kick-off as it quickly had Kaikorai scrambling in defence.
What appeared to be a try to openside flanker Keenan Rush in the opening minute was deemed to have been held up over the line.
That was not the case when Rush began a resurgence for the Broncos in the second half with a try in the second minute.
But with Jake Russ scoring a brace, Whitehouse-Opetaia Tovio bagging four and setting fullback Nic Proffit into space for a 40m run to the line, to capitalise on his six conversions in the match, Alhambra-Union’s fate was sealed with 47 of its opponent’s points coming from just three players.
Other players to stand out for Kaikorai were loose forwards Lucas Casey and Sam Jones, as were its tight five with Jonah Aonia to the fore in broken play.
With Rush dominating at the lineout, the AU backs were given an ideal platform from which to launch, with its midfield proving a handful for the Kaikorai defence.
Green Island 19
Veteran Zingari-Richmond fullback Shaun Driver gave a good crowd at Montecillo a lot to hoop and holler about.
He knocked over four penalties and a conversion to help his side defeat Green Island 24-19.
The Grizzlies made the final last season, but have not been able to recapture that form this season.
The loss condemned the side to an early exit. It joins Zingari-Richmond and Alhambra-Union in missing the playoffs.
A win would have been enough for it to sneak into the top six and book a playoff match against Taieri.
And the first 20 minutes offered promise.
Green Island enjoyed the better of the match but stacked up mistake after mistake.
Zingari-Richmond had trouble with accuracy as well and went into the break trailing 9-3.
But the Colours seized control of the game with a tries to Chris Bell and Oscar Anderson.
Al Momoisea crossed twice for Green Island, but the home side played with more hunger and created more opportunities.
Alongside Driver, halfback Jin Ho Mun had a lively game and No 8 Tofatuimoana Solia carried strongly.
For Green Island, hooker Harry Hansen had a solid shift and Momoisea was threatening at fullback.
Southern started the game on fire and had three tries on the board inside 15 minutes. It controlled territory and possession for most of the first spell and was helped by Dunedin’s no-tackling policy in the first spell.
But the tries were well-worked, with some neat double rounds and extra-man plays, and will-o’-the-wisp fullback Mackenzie Haugh set up a couple with slashing breaks from the back.
Dunedin looked shell-shocked and, when it did break out, it coughed up possession with handling errors. When flanker Jordan Dwight scored his second try, and Southern led 26-0, Dunedin’s day looked done.
Dunedin first five Ajay Faleafaga took matters into his own hands with a neat chip-and-chase into the 22 and had the pace to beat the cover, to dot down after 30 minutes, but the team trailed by 22 at the break.
Then somebody supercharged the Dunedin oranges at the break and it came out a different team. Inside eight minutes Dunedin had two more converted tries on the board, to replacement midfielder Sione Vea and flanker Charlie Perkins, and the lead was down to eight.
When winger Marcus Hetherington went over after the ball went through 10 sets of hands, from 50m out, it was game on.
Dunedin was not to be denied after winger Joe Cooke ran on to a kick pass from Faleafaga and centre Gene Te Amo dotted down from a 70m counterattack to win the game late in the piece.
For Dunedin flanker Josh Retter was the outstanding player on the paddock and was seemingly always only inches from the ball and he was instrumental in a couple of the tries. Energiser bunny halfback Devon Oliver Bell’s service was electric from the breakdown and out wide Joe Cooke was lethal on defence and his aerial skills superb.
For Southern lock Corban Agar secured a lot of possession at lineout time. Flanker Harry Taylor was their best and never gave an inch. Jack Leslie was tidy at first five and dangerous on attack and Haugh showed glimpses of his broken field running skills.
Harbour 31 ( Taylor Dale, Austin Atiga, Hagan Free, Piliu Tavake, Toby Kennett tries; Obey Samate 3 con), University 24 (Jermaine Pepe, Ivan Hill, Jeremiah
Asi tries; Jacob Waikari-Jones 3 pen). Halftime: 16-7 University.
Kaikorai 52 (Filipo Whitehouse-Opetaia Tovio 4, Jake Russ 2, Jordan McEntee-Walters Nic Proffit tries; Proffit 6 con), Alhambra-Union 20 (Keenan Rush, Lotu Solomonia, Henry Wragg tries; Emmanuel Ventura con, Solomonia pen). Halftime: 33-3 Kaikorai.
Zingari-Richmond 24 (Oscar Anderson, Chris Bell tries; Shaun Driver con, 4 pen), Green Island 19 (Al Momoisea 2 tries; Ryan Greenslade 3 pen). Halftime: 9-3 Green Island.
Dunedin 36 (Ajay Faleafaga, Simone Vea, Charlie Perkins, Marcus Hetherington, Joe Cooke, Gene Te Amo tries; Faleafaga 3 con), Southern 32 (Jordan Dwight 2, Henri Mitchell Collie, James Te Pairi tries. Jack Leslie 3 con, 2 pen). Halftime 29-7 Southern.
P W L D B F A Pts
Taieri 8 8 0 0 7 296 100 39
Dunedin 8 6 2 0 6 260 135 30
Harbour 8 5 3 0 5 186 138 25
Kaikorai 8 5 3 0 4 235 176 24
Southern 8 4 4 0 5 188 198 21
University 8 2 6 0 6 209 286 14
Green Is 8 2 5 1 2 134 237 12
Zingari-Richmond 8 2 6 0 1 115 219 9
Alhambra-Union 8 1 6 1 1 144 280 7
-- Rugby Writers