They need to beat Counties Manukau, who had their playoffs hopes dented by Southland in Invercargill on Sunday, the southern team acting as spoilers in taking a 30-26 win, their first of the season.
However, Bay of Plenty can still finish ahead of Wellington in the Odds Conference as they have their catch-up game on Wednesday against a Northland team who slipped to their fourth loss when beaten 52-17 by Tasman on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, they finish with an away game against Waikato.
Canterbury are well out of trouble at the head of the Evens Conference. North Harbour are second on 27 points and could secure second place if beating Southland in Invercargill on Saturday afternoon.
Auckland, who lost for the fifth time, against Canterbury are third on 25 points, and they host Taranaki at Eden Park while Tasman, one point back, play Hawke's Bay on Friday.
Round 8 results (including the final game of round 7 on Wednesday):
Taranaki 25 Counties Manukau 14
Trademark Taranaki forward play dominated this encounter on Wednesday and was the foundation of the first try, scored by flanker Kylum Boshier after several drives at the line went unrewarded. Counties Manukau scored through an orthodox blindside move which allowed first five-eighths Riley Hohepa to race in for the easiest of tries. More driving forward play from the home side had hooker Ricky Riccitelli set up ball that allowed first five-eighths Daniel Waite to snipe over close to the ruck. Wing Kini Naholo scored the third try when taking a tap penalty five metres out to catch Counties Manukau napping.
However, at the three-quarter mark wing Sam Tuifua crossed to get Counties Manukau to 25-14 but the effort petered out after that and there was no further score.
Taranaki 25 (Kylum Boshier, Daniel Waite, Kini Naholo tries; Waite 2 con, 2 pen) Counties Manukau 14 (Riley Hohepa, Sam Tuifua tries; Hohepa 2 con). HT: 20-7
Canterbury 38 Auckland 20
Auckland made a great start in Christchurch when wing Salesi Rayasi followed a little chip kick from halfback from Taufa Funaki to the in-goal to out-pace the cover defence to score. While they lost flanker Blake Gibson to the sin-bin when reacting to being held at a ruck, three points from a Harry Plummer penalty goal salved that pain. However, they were not so fortunate 30 minutes into the game when Funaki deliberately tapped the ball out in the in-goal for a penalty try to be awarded with Funaki sent to the bin. His absence resulted in a charge down of a Plummer kick and a try by lock Dom Gardiner to set Canterbury in their winning road. Wing Manase Mataele then strolled to the simplest of tries for Canterbury to go the break leading 21-10.
No8 Jackson Pugh kept the Blues alive, but second five-eighths Rameka Poihipi shut Auckland out when putting his stepping skills to use to leave the defence in tatters. Wing Joel Cobb's try made little difference for Auckland. A late head clash between flanker Niko Jones and Canterbury wing George Bridge resulted in Jones receiving a red card.
Canterbury 38 (Dom Gardiner, Manasa Mataele, Tom Christie, Rameka Poihipi tries; Penalty try; Alex Harford 4 con, dropped goal) Auckland 20 (Salesi Rayasi, Jackson Pugh, Joel Cobb tries; Harry Plummer con, pen). HT: 21-10
Bay of Plenty 20 Hawke's Bay 14
Bay of Plenty second five-eighths Inga Finau fired a half-field width pass to wing Emoni Narawa, who had 20m of space to consider where he would touch down for the opening try. BOP had most of the early running and it was into the second quarter before Hawke's Bay got their lineout maul rolling for lock Devan Flanders to open their scoring with a try. On the left side of the BOP 22m area, Hawke's Bay looked to have fluffed a try with an errant infield pass, but BOP couldn't tidy and lost the ball for Hawke's Bay hooker Tyrone Thompson to sidestep and race into the clear to give wing Ollie Sapsford a chance on the right which he took at speed to claim a 14-10 lead.
But a superb run down the same flank in the second half by Narawa saw his pass to supporting No8 Nikora Broughton reclaim the lead with a spectacular try. First five-eighths Kaleb Trask then demonstrated his long-pass throwing technique to give wing Nigel Ah Wong a try in the corner and Bay of Plenty the win.
Bay of Plenty 20 (Emoni Narawa, Nikora Broughton, Nigel Ah Wong tries; Kaleb Trask con, pen) Hawke's Bay 14 (Devan Flanders, Ollie Sapsford tries; Lincoln McClutchie 2 con). HT: 10-14
Tasman 52 Northland 17
Northland had a try chance over-ruled for holding a potential tackler, and the home team made the better of their chances as first five-eighths William Havili demonstrated his skills, firstly with a short pass to centre Levi Aumua to score, and then to score himself after a sharp incursion into the line by second five-eighths Alex Nankivell, who linked with Havili on the outside for the try. Havili was in the action again to combine with Aumua, who this time put Nankivell in the clear to score and give Tasman a 21-3 halftime lead.
Aumua picked up a second try when putting his power to use off a lineout to blast through the defence. Flanker Matt Polwart-Matich and replacement No8 Jaycob Matiu scored tries to pull Northland back to 31-17. But when looking for more space, a high pass to the outside was plucked from the air by wing Mac Springer who fed halfback Noah Hotham to race in for the try. Springer then scored one of his own when Northland were reduced to 14 when Heremiah Murray was sin-binned with the coup de grâce coming from a lineout maul try for Ryan Coxon.
Tasman 52 (Levi Aumua 2, William Havili Alex Nankivell, Noah Hotham, Mac Springer, Ryan Coxon tries; Havili con; Taine Robinson 6 con, pen) Northland 17 (Matt Polwart-Matich, Jaycob Matiu tries; Rivez Reihana 2 con, pen). HT: 21-3
Wellington 34 Waikato 6
Playing with confidence and freedom, Wellington opened their try-scoring in the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Waikato with a try that could have been out of the long-standing regional playbook with support play extending the defences before wing Pepesana Patafilo scored. They were only up 10-6 at the turn, but cut loose in the second.
Replacement Conor Garden-Bachop capped some great work by hooker Asafo Aumua and flanker Caleb Delany with a try, as Waikato were down to 14 when replacement hooker Pita Anae Ah-Sue was sin-binned for a no-arms late tackle on TJ Perenara. A powerful lineout maul saw hooker James O'Reilly score and then in injury time a dropped ball on Wellington's line was toed downfield to be picked up by fullback Ruben Love to complete the scoring.
Wellington 34 (Pepesana Patafilo, Conor Garden-Bachop, James O'Reilly, Ruben Love tries; Aidan Morgan con, 2 pen: Jackson Garden-Bachop 3 con) Waikato 6 (Damian McKenzie 2 pen). HT: 10-6
Manawatu 35 Otago 54
Manawatu's second five-eighths Jason Emery four minutes into the game threw a big dummy and went over for the first try, followed by hooker Siua Maile scoring his sixth try after a lineout maul. But it proved a false dawn for the home team. Otago, down 14-0 after 24 minutes, started their 35-unanswered points recovery with prop Abraham Pole scoring. Superb play by lock Fabian Holland, three times contributing to a move before scoring to level the scores. Pole scored a second of a long-range lineout maul. Hooker Henry Bell took an in-pass from Holland and ran 22metres to score.
Two minutes into the second half, a front of the lineout move saw halfback Kemara Hauiti-Parapara score. Two tries from fullback Drew Wild, the second an outstanding solo effort, reduced the margin but the mojo was all with Otago who finished off with tries by centre Mitchell Scott and flankers Oliver Haig and Sean Withy.
Manawatu 35 (Jason Emery, Siua Maile, Drew Wild 2, Logan Henry tries; Brett Cameron 4 con; Sam Clarke con) Otago 54 (Abraham Pole 2, Fabian Holland, Henry Bell, Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Mitchell Scott, Oliver Haig, Sean Withy tries; Cameron Millar 7 con). HT: 14-28
North Harbour 35 Taranaki 19
Tries were exchanged in the opening stages, home team North Harbour spinning the ball wide for wing Kade Banks to cross, while Taranaki's hooker Bradley Slater crossed from a lineout maul. But there was speed to burn in Taranaki's second scored by flanker Kylum Boshier after strong runs by wing Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens and fullback Stephen Perofeta.
Concerted teamwork saw North Harbour extend their halftime lead of 14-12 with first five-eighths Bryn Gatland scoring early in the second with replacement prop Kalolo Tuiloma scoring six minutes later. Close quarter North Harbour support play continued to provide problems for Taranaki and wing Tevita Li was next to appear in the midst of the helter-skelter play to score. Taranaki provided their own showcase to finish off with replacement Liam Blyde crossing to round out the scoring.
North Harbour 35 (Kade Banks, Isoa Nasilasila, Bryn Gatland, Kalolo Tuiloma, Tevita Li tries; Gatland 5 con) Taranaki 19 (Bradley Slater, Kylum Boshier, Liam Blyde tries; Stephen Perofeta con; Daniel Waite con). HT: 14-12
Southland 30 Counties Manukau 26
Southland broke its duck in 2022, and did it the hard way. Up 10-5 at halftime after tries to hooker Sam Stewart and second five-eighths Matt Whaanga, they lost flanker Hayden Michaels to a red card for a head-on-head tackle on second five-eighths AJ Alatimu two minutes into the second half. When they were already fielding a side without any contracted Super Rugby players it showed the plight they were under as a result of injuries.
While they took 15 minutes to adjust, and saw wing Peniasi Malimali scored his second try and flanker Adam Brash score the first of his two, to lead 19-10, Southland started its recovery with fullback Robbie Robinson landing a penalty goal and then having their replacement tight forwards, hooker Jacob Payne and prop Paula Latu, score tries for Robinson to do the rest, with another penalty to get home for the win.
Southland 30 (Sam Stewart, Matt Whaanga, Jacob Payne, Paula Latu tries; Robbie Robinson 2 con, 2 pen) Counties Manukau 26 (Peniasi Malimali 2, Adam Brash 2 tries; Riley Hohepa 3 con). HT:10-5