Mitre 10 Cup Semis: Auckland win nailbitter to clinch Premiership final spot

Star wing Leicester Fainga'anuku has powered his Tasman side into the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final with a 19-10 victory over Bay of Plenty. 

The big wing caused the Steamers defence a problem all night and gave the Marko front-foot ball. Not only did he dominate with ball in hand, but also in the air, capitalising on a strong kicking game from the home side and giving the Steamers nothing to work with. 

Tasman dominated the opening 30 minutes, putting consistent pressure on the visiting side in Nelson. They made that pressure count, with two tries in four minutes through Quentin MacDonald and Fainga'anuku to race out to a 13-0 lead. 

Bay of Plenty finished the half strongly and just before halftime, Joe Webber crashed over to reduce the deficit to six points. 

The second half was all about the strong kicking game of the home side, which gave them territory and didn't allow Bay of Plenty to unleash their lethal attacking game. 

Mitch Hunt continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over with his trusty boot and maintained the Steamers at arms length. 

The result means the defending champions will travel to Auckland's Eden Park for the Premiership final. 

Tasman 19 (MacDonald, Fainga'anuku tries; Hunt 3 penalties) Bay of Plenty 10 (Webber try; Trask conversion, penalty)

Magpies thrash Taranaki to host Championship final  

Inspirational captain Ash Dixon has snatched a try hat-trick to help Hawke's Bay secure home advantage for next week's Mitre 10 Cup Championship final.

Trailling early, the Bay scored six unanswered tries to overpower Taranaki 59-23, just six days after edging their rivals by one point in their regular season finale.

Penalties from Jayson Potroz and a try from wing Lukas Halls gave the visitors an 11-7 advantage after 25 minutes, and another close tussle seemed in prospect.

But a try from flanker Solomone Funaki sparked an avalanche before halftime, with prop Pouri Rakere-Stones and hooker Dixon also crossing for a 28-11 advantage at the break.

As the second half unfolded, Dixon, livewire halfback Folau Fakatava and Dixon again had tries, before both sides brought on their reserves and hooker Ricky Riccitelli sparked a late Taranaki revival.

The result means the Ranfurly Shield holders will now host Northland for promotion to next year's Premiership.

Hawke's Bay 59 (Cridge, Rakete-Stones, Fakatava, McLeod, Dixon 3 & Funaki tries; Makene converson, McClutchie 7 conversions & penalty) Taranaki 23 (Halls, Brighouse & Riccitelli tries; Potroz 2 penalties & conversion)

Gutsy Auckland hang tough to clinch Premiership final spot

Auckland have clinched a spot in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final, with a gutsy 23-18 victory over Waikato at Eden Park. 

It wasn't a vintage display by Alama Ieremia’s side, but they scrapped their way into their second grand final in three years and have secured hosting rights for the final. 

The outcome came down to the final minute, with Waikato hot on attack inside the home side's 22, but Auckland lock Jack Whetton won a crucial penalty to seal the result.  

The visitors made a bright start to the contest, scoring the opening try through hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho. 

Matty Landsdown had his clearing kick charged down, but it fortunately found Quinn Tupaea, who broke clear, before offloading for Taukei'aho to score in the corner. 

Eight minutes later, Waikato had their second through veteran flanker Adam Thompson. Auckland fell asleep in defence, and Thompson broke clear down the wing to score in the corner and punish the home side. 

After 25 minutes, star wing Salesi Rayasi got the home side back in the contest. Auckland worked a shortside play from a scrum, where halfback Jonathan Ruru produced a flick pass to put Rayasi over in the corner and head to the break 15-11 down. 

Auckland centre Tumua Manu.
Auckland centre Tumua Manu.

Just four minutes into the second half, Auckland finally hit the front, when Harry Plummer took the ball to the line and offloaded under pressure to put Tanielu Tele'a over. 

Just eight minutes later, Tumua Manu scored what turned out to be the game-winning try. Rayasi broke clear from his own 22 and produced a miracle offload to find Manu, who bolted downfield to score in the corner. 

Waikato continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over through penalty goals from Beaudein Waaka, but it wasn't to be. 

Auckland 23 (Rayasi, Tele’a, Manu tries; Plummer 1 penalty, 1 conversion, Sullivan 1 penalty) Waikato 18 (Taukei’aho,Thomson tries; Waaka 2 penalties, 1 cononversion)