East Tamaki rolled Ponsonby 22-12 in Auckland club rugby's biggest upset in two seasons. Ponsonby were decisive winners of this season's first round championship, while East Tamaki were almost relegated.
A week earlier, East Tamaki lost to newly-promoted Waitemata, while Ponsonby overwhelmed Otahuhu 72-13. But East Tamaki took the game to the Ponies and thoroughly deserved the win, scoring three tries to their opponents' two.
The result throws the championship wide open, as Ponsonby still have three of their toughest opponents to come - University, whom they play on Saturday, Grammar Carlton, then Waitakere City. Ponsonby have dropped to fifth equal as Waitakere City and University have taken over the lead after two matches.
Waitakere City were none-too-convincing 33-31 winners over Suburbs, who earned two bonus points. Only the accurate goalkicking of Ben Mailata kept Waitakere City in the game, the teenager successful with all three conversions and four penalties.
University had little to spare over Waitemata, winning 28-23 after after trailing 13-10 at halftime. Marist beat Otahuhu 30-18, while Pakuranga drew 10-10 with Grammar Carlton.
Veteran first five-eighths Dean Phillipps was Helensville's hero in the side's remarkable come-from-behind win over Takapuna. The 35-year-old with 275 premier games behind him usually plays reserves these days but came in for yesterday's top-of-the-table clash. Phillipps showed great poise under pressure to land a late penalty, which scraped in off the upright, as Helensville came from 22-3 down to win 23-22, retaining the championship lead.
There was drama in the other key Harbour match yesterday, as Marist beat North Shore 41-29. In top form for Marist was wing Alex Florian with three tries and Rudi Wulf continued his return with another fine game as Marist jumped away to a 36-5 halftime lead. Shore's comeback was helped when Marist No 8 Frank Afeaki was ordered off for alleged stomping.
Northcote recovered from a halftime deficit to gain the maximum five points in a 29-7 win over East Coast Bays. Glenfield edged fellow strugglers Kumeu 15-13 and Massey's strong recent form continued 28-0 over Mahurangi.
Ardmore Marist secured a home semifinal against Pukekohe after beating Manurewa 18-8 at Bruce Pulman Park yesterday. In a lacklustre match, Manurewa had a slight edge at scrum time through their big front row of Sekope Kepu, Sione Lea and Vai Falau.
Ardmore Marist wing Lance Easton opened the scoring with a penalty and openside flanker Carwyn Chase crossed close to the uprights after a break down the sideline by Sio Petelo. Easton converted for a 10-0 halftime score.
After a slow start to the second spell, Manurewa first-five Richard Koroi slotted a penalty. That was matched soon after by Easton, who then scored a try to stretch the lead to 18-3. Setephano Sauquaqua scored a late try for Manurewa.
Patumahoe beat Pukekohe 13-6 to drop the champions to third. It was a double blow for Pukekohe, with experienced first-five Blair Feeney possibly fracturing a collarbone. Patumahoe will play Manurewa on Saturday in the other semifinal.