This week, it is nearing mid-season of the Mitre 10 Cup. With the 14 sides broken into two-tiers; Premiership and Championship, the nine round competition is in full swing. With that in mind, Week Five Mitre 10 Cup results have changed the standings for some.

That occurred after a handful of upsets. Some were your common upset, while a couple were ‘monumental results’. They made fans gasp, it was the weekend where people will talk about those matches around the water cooler. Honestly, it was fantastic!

Plus there was a New Zealand v South Africa game, just to be sure it was mouth-watering weekend.

Week Five Mitre 10 Cup

Results: Counties-Manukau 29 Taranaki 30 | Southland 29 Hawke’s Bay 43Tasman 33 Northland 23 | Wellington 24 Bay of Plenty 10 | Otago 24 North Harbour 13 | Manawatu 19 Canterbury 13 | Auckland 26 Counties-Manukau 30 | Waikato 20 Taranaki 20

If you run your eye over these results, most were predictable. So where were the upsets you ask? Read closely and you will see the weekend produced an amazing support act for the All Blacks main event Saturday night. Plenty of tries across the week too (see below)

Upset #1: Manawatu v Canterbury

In a wet Palmerston North, the Canterbury juggernaut was out-passioned by the Manawatu Turbos. Not as in ‘turbos’ making you go faster, but as in turbo-driven stamina. That meant, playing a tight game plan to suit to oppressive weather.

9-6 after 40 minutes, the crowd had to be patient. That forced the issue for the top-ranked Canterbury side. Put off their free-flowing game, Luke Whitelock paid the price for cynical play with a yellow card. That thankfully did not cost them any points and just as they do, George Bridge scored soon after his return.

A close finish was on the cards, with most assuming the bigger union would prevail. They just couldn’t hold the ball–a bar of soap at times. With that, Johnny McNicholl failed to ground a Jason Emery grubber and the first Turbo player to put their hand to the ball was lock Jackson Hemopo. The TMO had to look several times, but judged that McNichol failed to force the ball.

A huge upset, stopping the mulit-time Champions under intense pressure. Well played Manawatu.

Upset #2: Auckland v Counties-Manukau

The farmers down in Pukekohe will have celebrated long and hard Sunday night. Winning 26-30 is one thing, but it was a complete surprise to most. Even though Auckland were ahead of their neighbours on the table, after some losses, they were unsteady.

Just the perfect time for an upset. Seize the day, and that they did. Viliame Rarasea scored first, then Gafatasi Su’a crossed to extend a 0-15 score. Great start. And a few penalties brought Auckland close, Sione Fifita dotted down to give the visitors a real good base 9-20.

It looked good, until several tries brought the game to a head. In years past, the big city boys held off the rural lads. More due to their in-built winning culture, but head coach Darryl Suasua has educated his side. Some play for successful Super Rugby teams, and that has given them the motivation to play to their strengths.

That is their belief. Their unity, and together all 23 men matched the bigger side and triumphed. Not even the fancied Ioane brothers could not stop the brilliant victory. A big win too, the first for a Counties side at Eden Park in 39 years.

MVP: Augustine Pulu

The All Black halfback had chosen to play the 2015/2016 Sevens Series. The goal being gold at the Rio Olympics. While that was not meant to be for him and fellow Blues signing Sonny Bill Williams, his fitness level came to the for this week. As described, Counties-Manukau were just pipped on Wednesday by Taranaki 29-30. Backing up, the ranging halfback is very much the ‘director’ of this side.

On Sunday, he was the perfect foil to the confident Auckland side. Pulu has speed and it was that factor that turned the game on it’s head. He saw a thin gap on the blind, and ran 25 metres to claim an important win. A try many will admire, and one that may have All Blacks selectors interested in Pulu again.

Standings: Premiership – Canterbury 21 | Taranaki 20 (6) | Counties 19 (6) | Waikato 17 | Auckland 17 (6) | Tasman 13 | H. Bay 8 (6)

Championship – Otago 28 (6) | Wellington 18 | Manawatu 15 | Harbour 9 | Bay of Plenty 9 | Northland 4 (6) | Southland 2.

As the Canterbury Premiership side reflect on a loss, the Otago Championship machine have been almost perfect. They sit on 28 points, and have played their double-header. Very much certain of a semi final place, one more win will ensure a home match.

OTAvTAS
Otago players celebrate their win during the round four Mitre 10 Cup match between Otago and Tasman at Forsyth Barr Stadium (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

All those teams who have played twice in a week () can ready themselves for a possible play-off spot. Southland and Bay of Plenty face that mid-week/Sunday match schedule, and neither are realistically in finals contention. The higher placed teams, like Taranaki, Counties, Auckland can now accumulate.

Waikato could be the big loser, since a draw gives them just two competition points. That will leave a sour taste in their mouths. And news now in is that Damian McKenzie will be away with the traveling All Blacks side–removed again, and it might be a difficult task to earn a good seeding for the play-offs.

Week Six Mitre 10 Cup

Next week, the matches are all just as interesting.

Fixtures: Wednesday September 21 – Southland v Bay of Plenty, Invercargill | Thursday Sept 22 – Northland v Wellington, Whangarei | Friday Sept 23 – Counties-Manukau, Pukekohe | Saturday Sept 24 – Canterbury v Otago, Christchurch | Taranaki v Manawatu, New Plymouth | Hawke’s Bay v Tasman, Napier | Sunday Sept 25 – North Harbour v Southland, Albany | Bay of Plenty v Auckland, Rotorua.

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Investec Rugby Championship

Fans packed out AMI Stadium in Christchurch, to see both the All Blacks and a traditional rivalry. After 91 matches, the history always ensures a pressure-cooker environment.

See full match report below, as New Zealand withstood the early Springbok heat.

NEW  ZEALAND  41  SOUTH AFRICA 13

Emphatic All Blacks Seal The Rugby Championship

Claiming the Championship after four rounds was not expected, it even surprised Steve Hansen.

“We have to keep asking ourselves to get better every day and, if we do that, then we are a chance.”

While the leading side in International rugby rides a wave of success; 15 wins in a row no less, the domestic scene is too performing solidly. Upsets aside, across the Week Five Mitre 10 Cup matches we saw good standards and each side working hard. Southland, who may not have scored a victory yet, still scored 29 points against Hawke’s Bay. Week Six should follow this same suit.

Enthusiasm and passion in Mitre 10 Cup

The enthusiasm is there from every team. Northland rocked Tasman, so too did North Harbour but the defense also saw those winning sides repel the opposition. And in the upset games, that was the difference. Auckland left a gap for Counties to squeeze out of, and Waikato were saved by a judged no-arms tackle (well before a possible game winning try movement). The draw saved their Ranfurly Shield reign too.

It was certainly a fine weekend of rugby, and the same can be expected from Wednesday night. Enjoy all the upcoming action, and be sure to follow the NZ Rugby Grandstand  every week.

“Main photo credit”

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