It's official – the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final will be a battle of North versus South.
The seeding for the playoffs was set yesterday afternoon at Eden Park, with Auckland finishing the season at the top of the ladder after a dominant 45-29 win against North Harbour.
In doing so, the side booked a semifinal clash against fourth-placed Wellington, while second-placed Tasman will meet southern rivals Canterbury.
It's the first time since 2007 that Auckland has finished the regular season atop the NPC table, which was well before the implementation of a two-tiered competition in 2011.
A win by any margin was all Auckland needed to cement their position; however they left nothing to chance in a dominating display.
Harbour struck early through prop Lua Li to take the initial ascendancy in the match, but it wasn't long before Auckland found their groove. Scoring three tries to two in the opening 40 despite limited time with the football, it was a job half done for the Aucklanders.
In the second half, they put the foot down. A strong final 40 highlighted by a Salesi Rayasi double sealed the bonus point win.
It was a strong effort from the Auckland side at both ends of the pitch. They made 135 of their 158 attempted tackles – 44 more than Harbour were required to make – and were able to fend of pressure the brought onto themselves with a high penalty count.
They'll now turn their attention to hosting Wellington next weekend; a side they beat by five points when they met earlier this season. For North Harbour, they finish the season fifth on the table.
Mitre 10 Cup playoffs
Premiership: Auckland v Wellington; Tasman v Canterbury
Championship: Waikato v Northland; Otago v Hawke's Bay