Waitemata have West Auckland bragging rights after they held off a fast-finishing Waitakere City to win the local derby by 32-24 at Trust's Stadium in Henderson yesterday.
The game began at a frenetic pace with Waitemata's backline clicking from the kickoff. Wingers John Viu and Larry Manu both crossed out wide after free-flowing movements, before prop Arnold Fatu Nu'u scored to put the visitors ahead 17-0 after 20 minutes.
Waitakere did not help themselves with some poor defence and sloppy ball control. Before halftime, they went further behind when Viu finished off a fine move. Down 24-3 at the break, Waitakere began to dominate possession and came back strongly.
Flanker Andrew Pritchard scored from a sharp run by fullback Kyle Nu'uali'itia.
Bustling No 8 Sa Salepea then crashed over after hooker Vaai Ioane and lock Charlie Hiku combined well.
Excellent goalkicking from Ben Mailata closed the gap to 24-17.
Waitakere continued to attack but could not breach Waitemata's well-organised defence.
A quick turnover by Waitemata flanker Mario Ozich led to a counter-attacking raid, expertly finished off in the corner by flying winger Manu.
Sipaia Fonoti dotted down for Waitakere in injury time to close the gap but Waitemata deserved the win.
Elsewhere, ex-Northampton Saints first-five Anthony Fenner made a solid debut for Otahuhu as they beat Pakuranga 32-21 after leading 25-0 at the break. Ponsonby remain on top after thrashing East Tamaki 64-6.
Grammar Carlton stay second after they were too strong for Suburbs. College Rifles stay in the top four after beating Teachers Eastern 53-10.
Northcote, after having set the pace for most of the season, crashed to their first loss yesterday in North Harbour premier club rugby. In losing 23-17 to Takapuna, they have probably ensured that North Shore will win the first-round competition for the Buck Shelford Shield.
Shore, a comfortable winner over East Coast Bays 50-26 yesterday, have taken a two-point table lead over Northcote and, with a home match next weekend against Mahurangi in the first round's closing match, look poised to take a trophy named in honour of their coach.
Takapuna looked more their old selves in upsetting Northcote and in so doing gained their first try in nearly a month when fullback Nick Elrick ran onto a stab kick early to give the side a 7-0 lead.
Playing with the wind advantage, Takapuna dominated the first spell and, with Jon Elrick again in superb goal-kicking form, had a 16-3 lead at the break. That didn't seem to be a big enough lead, as Northcote, led well by No 8 Richard Mayhew, gained control of the second spell and in the closing stages looked to have secured the win when Brock Mustard scored wide out and Mike Harris added a sideline conversion. But, near time, Northcote lost a crucial lineout and suddenly Takapuna's replacement lock James Ledwith scampered into the clear for the winning try under the posts.
Shore outpaced Bays in a game which featured 11 tries, Glenfield routed bottom side Helensville 87-8, with Jack McPhee contributing 27 points as the side ran in 13 tries, and Massey had George Pisi and Chris Smylie back from Super 14 duty in beating Silverdale 35-15. Pisi leaves soon for Taranaki.