Taieri used up another life on the weekend.
The Eels have turned the one-point win into an art form this season and emerged on the right side of another cliffhanger. They beat Alhambra-Union 23-22 at the North Ground — their third one-point win this season — to claim the competition lead.
Alhambra-Union arguably had the better of the encounter but Taieri always had pressure on its opponent’s lineout and was more composed in the critical moments.
Highlanders back-up prop Josh Iosefa-Scott benefited from Taieri’s trademark lineout drives, crashing over for two tries.
Winger William Ngatai grabbed a try as well, while Alhambra Union wingers Pecili Malanicagi (2) and John Tapueluelu scored three tries between them.
The AU Broncos did well to crack Taieri’s organised defence and led 19-12 at halftime.
But the home team came up with errors in key moments.
The lead changed three times in a tense final 10 minutes but Corey McKay sealed the win with a late penalty.
Loose forward Nick Henderson and Matt Whaanga had strong games for Taieri, while Highlander Zane Kapeli impressed on the openside for Alhambra-Union.
Harbour 31 Dunedin 15
Harbour came out fighting after an average start to the season, by its standards.
Dunedin led after an early penalty to Riley Forbes but the Harbour forward pack took control and won convincingly.
It dominated the scrum and the collision area and played the Dunedin pack out of the game. By halftime, the home team had scored converted tries to forwards Joe Williams and Aiden Spence from close range and the game was over as a contest.
Dunedin wing Freedom Vahaakolo scored a trademark long-range try when he broke the midfield, dissolved another tackle and disappeared into the ether to give the Sharks a sniff at 17-10 but that is as close as it got.
Dunedin lost captain Jamie Mowat to a yellow card and Harbour replacement lock Highlander Tom Parsons crashed over after a prolonged build-up. The pack capped the performance when it demolished the Dunedin scrum and was awarded a penalty try.
The Harbour pack was outstanding and well led by 101-game No8 Charles Elton, who was at the forefront of the team’s drive and urgency. Toka Sopoaga was lively at first five-eighth and Lisala Halaleva was penetrative in the midfield.
Fullback Jayden Beckett and Vahaakolo were far and away Dunedin’s best.
Southern 25 Green Island 16
Southern had to work hard against a determined Green Island side before securing a 25-16 win at Bathgate Park.
The visiting team definitely had the better of the opening half. Its workhorse-like pack put its head down and bashed the ball up.
Prop Shane Fikken got across under the posts and fullback Isaak Te Hiwi slotted the conversion and two penalties to give his side a 13-10 lead at halftime.
Southern scored two slick tries during rare forays into its opponent’s 22, though.
Highlanders midfielder Tei Walden helped set up the try of the game when he drifted towards a gap and drew two defenders creating space for MacKenzie Haugh to score in the corner.
Haugh added a second try early in the second half but Green Island regained the lead through the boot of Te Hiwi.
The key moment came when loose forward Bradley Horne barged forward and reached through the tackle to ground the ball over the line.
Magpies pivot Mitchell Taylor added a penalty to stretch the final margin to nine points.
Mika Mafi made some telling runs for Southern and Walden, in his 50th game for the side, was influential in the midfield.
For Green Island, lock Woody Kirkwood put in a solid shift, while halfback Devin Stapley notched his 100th game for the Grizzlies and veteran hooker Peter Mirrielees his 50th game for the side.
University 46 Zingari-Richmond 5
It was a champion performance from a champion team, as University fired a warning shot towards the playoffs with a convincing 46-5 victory over Zingari-Richmond at Logan Park.
Despite the scoreline, Zingari-Richmond appeared at times a much better team than that. Unfortunately, it suffered from a high error rate that gave University a high percentage of ball and a decisive territorial advantage. University went to the break 29-0 up.
Only as legs became a little weary was Zingari-Richmond able to unleash its backline consisting of three Highlanders, getting on the board through a try to Kirisi Kuridrani.
University was well served by its front row of Carlos Policarpio and Highlanders Ricky Jackson and Daniel Lienert-Brown, while lock Hadleigh Morgan and its loose forward trio featured throughout. The midfield combination of Giovanni Leituala and Josh Timu were impressive.
For Zingari-Richmond hooker Jacob Turrell, lock SioneTukala and loose forwards Karl Still and Aron Einarsson featured.
- ODT rugby writers