The cream is rising to the top of First XV rugby around the country as the playoffs loom large.
In the Super 8, defending champions Hamilton BHS are heading for a showdown with Hastings BHS in the August 13 final, and the two schools meet in Hastings this Saturday in the last round-robin match. Hastings have enjoyed a stellar, unbeaten 2016 season.
Hamilton will enter the clash in buoyant mood, though, after dispatching Gisborne BHS 30-3 at home in difficult conditions, scoring four tries in a nicely controlled effort in the face of some staunch Gisborne defence, led by openside and captain Naera Tipoki.
Hamilton centre Quinn Tupaea was always a handful and picked up a try and the man of the match honours, but there were also well-taken tries to halfback Xavier Roe and wing Kieran lee, while fullback Josh Moorby scored from a 50m kick-return on the counter.
Hamilton appear to be warming to their work and, even if they have to again travel to Hastings for the final, should be well placed for a realistic shot at the Super 8, which they have dominated since its 1999 inception.
In other results, Hastings BHS beat Tauranga BC 29-10, and Rotorua BHS put 48-30 on Palmerston North BHS. New Plymouth BHS defeated Napier BHS 29-7. Tomorrow sees the traditional Polson Banner clash between Napier BHS and Palmerston North BHS. The former will be favourites, on form, for this one.
The UC Championship has found its two home semifinalists.
Christ's College thrashed Ashburton 51-13, while Christchurch BHS put on a second half clinic at Straven Road to beat St Andrew's 35-15.
Led by man of the match, flanker Ben Donkers, and bullocking No 8 Mosese Fifita, Christchurch BHS finished strongly after STAC had thrown everything at them in the first half in the quest for a bonus point win.
The opening try of the match to STAC wing Alipate Gonerogo, featuring several pairs of hands and slick passing, must rank as one of the tries of 2016. Captain and prop Ewan Milnes led from the front with a try. The TMO was called on several times to rule out other possible scores from Christchurch BHS.
The other result of significance in the UC Championship was Nelson's 34-0 win over Roncalli, meaning the Moascar Cup remains at the top of the South Island for at least another week.
In the Central North Island competition, St Peter's of Cambridge tuned up for this afternoon's national co-ed qualifier against Hillcrest High with a tight 17-12 victory over Feilding.
Feilding created two slick backline moves off set-pieces that exposed the St Peter's defence. They managed to score tries off both these opportunities and took a 12-0 lead.
St Peter's managed to gain some territory and answered with three successful penalties to fullback, Rewita Biddle. In the second half, St Peter's improved their defence and made some good tactical decisions. They built phases and put Feilding under pressure. A maul from a lineout resulted in Sean Chenery diving over for St Peter's. A fourth penalty goal from Biddle sealed the result.
In the Wellington quarter-finals, there was something of an upset, with Rongotai beating St Pat's Silverstream 20-13, and then a massive upset when Wairarapa edged Scots, the 2015 Top 4 finalists, 7-3, to advance.
The Auckland 1A competition has found the four semifinalists, with MAGS top dog, but who will qualify in second place and host the all-important second home semifinal is to be decided in the final round-robin matches on Saturday.
MAGS were pushed hard by King's and they had to rely on a late penalty goal to fullback Niven Longopoa to seal a 17-15 result, the first time they have not secured the maximum five points out of a fixture. Despite a strong display, King's are now out of the semifinal equation.
Sacred Heart are very much in the semifinal equation after beating Aorere 22-6 in a match highlighted by a solo try to prop Fatongia Paea. But they were unhappy with their preparation and complacency which meant they did not secure a vital bonus point. They will now have to beat Auckland Grammar and hope MAGS defeats St Kentigern - in their annual exchange game - on the weekend.
Tries to Rupena Parkinson and captain Tanielu Tele'a for St Kentigern trumped PJ Huch's score for De La Salle in a 14-5 win for the private school.
St Peter's have qualified for the semifinals after winning the so-called 'Battle of Broadway' 31-3 over Dilworth. Centre AJ Lam crossed for a double. Realistically St Peter's will qualify third or fourth, but will play the semis without ace goalkicker Harry Plummer, who injured his shoulder badly playing for the Blues Under 18s during the school holidays.
Kelston BHS beat Onehunga 27-5 and Auckland Grammar blanked Otahuhu 52-0, with prop Kaynan Siteine-Tua showing his skills with two fine tries against his father's alma mater.
In the North Harbour 1A competition, Westlake confirmed top billing with a 27-5 win over third-placed Massey.
Westlake captain Jack Heighton and second five Fine Inisi performed strongly, Heighton exhibiting a sharp rugby brain by setting up all three of his team's tries in the first half, whilst Inisi led the running metres and shares the team's top tryscoring numbers with Jack Fuller, securing two tries each.
In the other fixtures, Rosmini fresh from their South Island tour, thumped Birkenhead 92-0, Orewa reversed the first round result to beat Takapuna Grammar 13-5 and Rangitoto on their home track edged Whangarei BHS 20-17 to take fourth position. Orewa forfeited the deferred June 29 midweek fixture to give Westlake a default win. The final games of the second round will see Takapuna Grammar host Westlake, Massey at home to Rangitoto in the match of the week, Birkenhead travel to Whangarei and Rosmini play Orewa at home. Whangarei should win and squeeze ahead of Rangitoto into the semifinals.
North Harbour 1A:
Orewa 13 Takapuna Grammar 5
Rosmini 92 Birkenhead 0
Rangitoto 20 Whangarei BHS 17
Westlake BHS 27 Massey 5
St Peter's 31 Dilworth 3
Kelston BHS 27 Onehunga 5
Sacred Heart 22 Aorere 6
Auckland Grammar 52 Otahuhu 0
MAGS 17 King's 15
St Kentigern 14 De La Salle 5
Auckland 1B Championship:
Tamaki 13 Botany Downs 3
Mangere 22 Macleans 20
Tangaroa 15 Liston 13
One Tree Hill 22 Waitakere 3
Auckland 1B Plate:
Pakuranga 27 Edgewater 21
St Paul's 21 Papatoetoe 8
Howick 21 Avondale 19
St John's (Hamilton) 55 Pukekohe 7
Matamata 50 Alfriston 10
Rosehill 12 Te Awamutu 7
Manurewa 31 Cambridge 10
Hastings BHS 29 Tauranga BC 10
Rotorua BHS 48 Palmerston North BHS 30
New Plymouth BHS 29 Napier BHS 7
Hamilton BHS 30 (Kieran Lee, Quinn Tupaea, Xavier Roe, Josh Moorby tries; Rameka Poihipi 2 con, 2 pen) Gisborne BHS 3 (Austin Brown pen) HT: 13-3
Central North Island:
St Paul's Collegiate 45 Rathkeale 7
Wesley 24 Wanganui Collegiate 6
Francis Douglas Memorial 52 St John's (Hastings) 10
St. Peter's (Cambridge) 17 Feilding HS 12
Rongotai 20 v St Pat's Silverstream 13
Wairarapa 7 Scots 3
Christ's 51 Ashburton 13
Timaru BHS 18 Marlborough BC 12
Rangiora HS 29 St Thomas' 19
Nelson 34 Roncalli 0
Burnside HS 25 St Bede's 22
Shirley BHS 32 Waimea Combined 25
Christchurch BHS 35 (Ewan Milnes, Louie Chapman, Ryan Barnes, Atu Manu, Zachary Wilson tries; Alex Harford 2 con, 2 pen) St Andrew's 15 (Alipate Gonerogo, Morgan Griffin tries; Sam Gilbert con, pen) HT: 12-10 STAC
John McGlashan 16 Otago BHS Second XV 3
Waitaki BHS 33 King's HS 22