Auckland 31
Taranaki 30

Taranaki and Auckland are having very different seasons.

In one corner, you have the unexpected strugglers of this year's Mitre 10 Cup Premiership; in the other, an unbeaten juggernaut looking for their next scalp.

Auckland went in heavily favoured to leave the foot of the mountain with their unbeaten record intact, and were able to do just that with a 31-30 win.

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The signs were ominous for the hosts early when Akira Ioane breezed over the try line inside the first minute. It pointed to an Auckland domination, but the match played out as anything but.

In fact, Taranaki No 10 Stephen Perofeta had a kick to win the match after a late try, but he pushed it wide, even after getting a second shot because Auckland launched their chargedown attempt early.

Taranaki held the lead a number of times throughout the contest but came undone through some less than impressive plays.

Auckland winger Salesi Rayasi's two second half tries proved to be vital, as the visitors maintained their untainted record and their perch at the top of the ladder, while Taranaki picked up two bonus points for their efforts which leaves them anchored to the foot of the Premiership.

In the earlier matches, Premiership sides North Harbour and Canterbury both impressed with big scores against Hawke's Bay and Otago respectively.

North Harbour hooker James Parsons brought up his 100th match in style, guiding his side to a 51-34 win with two tries and a successful conversion from out wide. After an even contest for much of the game, Harbour were able to break away from the Magpies late in the piece to blow the score out to a flattering margin, and stay in fifth on the Premiership ladder, within striking distance of the semifinals.

Canterbury briefly overtook Auckland at the top of the table with a 47-25 decimation of their Southern rivals Otago. Canterbury No 10 Brett Cameron had an impressive outing from the tee, slotting six of seven conversion attempts, while the back five had a day to remember, with each crossing the stripe for a try.

Auckland's victory bumped Canterbury back down to second on the Premiership ladder, with Joe Maddock's side sitting on 27 points through seven games, two behind Auckland, who also hold a game in hand on their closest rivals.

However, the defending champions could be as low as fourth by the end of the weekend, with third-placed Tasman (24 points) and fourth-placed Wellington (22 points) both in action tomorrow against Counties Manukau and Manawatu respectively.

Auckland 31 (Salesi Rayasi 2, Akira Ioane, Tumua Manu, Jonathan Ruru tries; Harry Plummer 3 cons)
Taranaki 30 (Seta Tamanivalu, Tom Florence, Mitch Crosswell, Ciarahn Matoe tries; Beaudein Waaka 2 cons, 2 pens).
HT: 19-13