Counties hold onto Log o' Wood
Counties hold onto Log o' WoodSHARE
The Ranfurly Shield will remain with Counties Manukau for at least another three weeks.
Counties held off Waikato in a pulsating Shield defence in Pukekohe, winning 37-25.
Counties led 20-11 at half-time and extended the lead after the break, only to see Waikato fight back to within in five points midway through the second spell.
But a controversial try to Tony Pulu, pushed the lead out once more.
It means Counties now have to repel just one more challenge to retain the Shield for the season, with Southland getting a crack on October 11.
* In other NPC action on Saturday a 14-man Wellington defended stoically at the death to inflict a first loss on Canterbury, 25-19, and become the only unbeaten side in the NPC.
In a match pitting the two dominant Premiership teams this season, Wellington scored three tries to one in ugly conditions at home to open up a four-point gap at the top of the standings.
It took desperate tackling in the closing phases to hold out the five-time defending champions after Wellington reserve flank Adam Hill was sent off for what was deemed to be stamping offence in the 73rd minute.
Canterbury loose forward Jordan Taufua and wing Patrick Osborne were both ruled to have been held up over the tryline as they sought a decisive score.
Wellington held on to record a seventh win from seven games to sit on 33 points, while Canterbury (24) have won five from six. Second-placed Auckland (29) have won six from seven, all three powerhouse unions virtually assured of semifinal berths.
* Taranaki's outclassed Bay of Plenty 21-3 in their NPC match in New Plymouth.
The hosts took a 14-3 lead into the half-time break after a try to loose forward Blade Thompson and three penalty goals from Andre Taylor.
Taranaki fullback Kurt Baker added some flair to an otherwise scrappy encounter with an impressive kick-and-chase try midway through the second half to consolidate the lead.
It's Taranaki's third win of the season and the victory puts the side up to fifth on the Premiership ladder.
* Earlier Auckland jumped to first-equal on the NPC Premiership ladder with a bonus point 41-10 win over Northland at Eden Park.
The hosts led 14-7 at half-time, but improved on a scrappy first half to eventually run in six tries to one.
The result means Northland stays at the bottom of the Championship ladder, having won just one of its six matches.
Auckland are now first-equal with Wellington on 29 points on the Premiership table, with Wellington set to face fellow unbeaten side Canterbury on Saturday.
* Meanwhile Otago beat Manawatu 52-41 in a mammoth NPC match in Dunedin.
Otago forward Gareth Evans crossed the line in the second minute, which was the first of 11 tries in the match.
The encounter was evenly poised through the first half, with Otago holding a 36-27 lead at half-time.
Otago asserted its lead in the second half, eventually running in a total of six tries to five.
The win lifts Otago to second-equal with Tasman on the Championship ladder, one point behind leaders Hawke's Bay.
Scores and scorers this week!
Southland 34-31 North Harbour
Tries: Vaega, McKenzie 2, T Pole, Boys
Con: Eade, McKenzie 2
Tries: Manihera, Hall, Ahki
Cons: Elrick 2
Pens: Elrick 4
Tasman 18-9 Hawke's Bay
Tries: Christie, Squire
Pens: Marshall, Guyton
Pens: West 3
Counties Manukau 37-25 Waikato
Tries: Stowers, A Pulu, Lee, T Pulu
Cons: Kerr 4
Pens: Kerr 3
Tries: Renata, Grice, Christie
Cons: Renata 2
Pens: Renata 2
Taranaki 21-3 Bay of Plenty
Tries: Thomson, Baker
Pens: Taylor 3
Bay of Plenty:
Wellington 25-19 Canterbury
Tries: J Hill, Savea, Palu
Con: Sopoaga 2
Pen: Sopoaga 2
Pens: Bleyendaal 4
Otago 52-41 Manawatu
Tries: Evans, Spence 2, Popoali'i, Breen, Ioane
Cons: Parker 5
Pens: Parker 4
Tries: Gibbins, Wharewera, Malo, Taufu'i, Van Dam
Cons: Te Rure 5
Pens: Te Rure 2
Auckland 41-10 Northland
Tries: Parkes , Aso, Moala, Hickey, Visinia, Tu'ungafasi
Cons: Weepu 4
Bay of Plenty 25-33 Southland
Bay of Plenty:
Pens: Ripia 6
Tries: Tuapati, Dixon, Mckenzie
Cons: Eade 3
Pens: Eade 3, Mckenzie