Place in premiership semis all but secure with rampant record 60-19 victory over Waikato at a rain-soaked Eden Park.
Star All Black suffers setback and isn't certain to play in Canterbury's NPC clash with Tasman on Saturday night.
Prop Sione Lea producing eye-catching performances off bench during crucial periods late in Taranaki's NPC campaign.
While many things have changed in provincial rugby over the years, one thing hasn't - Waikato's dislike for Auckland.
Craig Smith rates Sunday's win over Canterbury as the best game of rugby he's played in.
Wellington are 0-8 for the season after being beaten 36-14 by Hawke's Bay in the Ranfurly challenge.
There's a spring in the step in Stagland, but also a realisation of the hard work ahead to make the NPC semifinals.
Chris Boyd has made only minor tweaks to his Lions side ahead of their Ranfurly Shield clash with Hawke's Bay.
The top four sides in the Heartland Championship will contest the Meads Cup while fifth to eighth fight out the Lochore Cup.
Seta Tamanivalu is in global demand as the big centre lights up the NPC with Taranaki.
Waikato's young first-five Damian McKenzie is hoping to bounce back after an off day against Manawatu.
Wellington will be without Mark Reddish and Shaun Treeby for their Ranfurly Shield challenge on Wednesday.
Jarrod Firth has dominated in the NPC, but there's not much Super Rugby interest in the Steelers prop.
First five left out of the All Blacks after a drinking episode due to turn out in a top-of-the-table NPC clash.
Sonny Bill puts an end to speculation on his return to rugby saying he'll be with Counties next Wednesday.
Good news is in short supply for Canterbury coach with captain Willi Heinz likely to miss the NPC campaign.
Lions lock Ross Filipo hopes to lift the gloom around the club by winning the Ranfurly Shield tomorrow night.
OPINION: Things look bleak for the Lions now, but haven't they always been that way, writes Hamish Bidwell.
OPINION: It's time for a re-think so the national provincial championship is less confusing and gives every team a shot.
Counties Manukau coach "wouldn't be surprised" if Sonny Bill takes the field on Saturday.
What have you made of the ITM Cup this season?