With two rounds of the Pink Batts Heartland championship remaining, Mid and South Canterbury and Wanganui seem likely to claim three of the four Meads Cup play-off positions after Round Six games on Saturday.
Mid Canterbury remain on top with 27 points while South Canterbury are two behind with Wanganui now on 23 points.
Fourth-placed Horowhenua Kapiti lost to Wairarapa Bush 19-33 and North Otago, who survived a last act conversion from Buller that was ruled to have grazed the outside of the goal post, moved into fourth on 18 points.
Seta Halaleia scored a hat-trick of tries for North Otago, who have two tough games to finish against South Canterbury and Mid Canterbury before they can claim a play-offs place.
Wairarapa Bush are right behind them in fifth place on 17 points. They have have games against East Coast and Wanganui left while Horowhenua Kapiti play Mid Canterbury and Buller.
Heartland Championship results, Round Six:
East Coast 10 (Kris Palmer, Whakarae Henare tries)
West Coast 22 (Brad Houston 2, Josh Hill, Desmond Spooner tries; Nik Cumming con)
Thames Valley 27 (Lance Easton 2, Haerenarangi Renata, Hayden Wisnewski tries; Jonnie Te Ruki 2 con; David Harrison pen)
Wanganui 47 (Stephen Perofeta 2, Bryn Hudson 2, Samu Kubunavanua, Cole Baldwin, Ranato Tikoilosomone tries; Trinity Spooner-Neera 6 con)
Poverty Bay 27 (Corban Barbara, Tamanui Hill, Geoff Pari, Murray Hewson tries; Ethine Reeves 2 con, pen)
Mid Canterbury 38 (Jon Dampney, Ewen Scott, Seta Koroitamana, Sam Watt, Ashton Tuck tries; Ewen Scott 2 con, 3 pen)
King Country 14 (Iliesa Tavuyara, Steve Te Moananui tries; Zayn Tipping 2 con)
South Canterbury 42 (Matt Fetu, Rupeni Cokonosiga, Nick Annear, Jarrad Matthews, Kieran Coll tries; Jared Trevathan 4 con, 3 pen)
Wairarapa Bush 33 (Andrew Makalio 2, James Wall, Nick Olson tries; Tim Priest 2 con, 3 pen)
Horowhenua Kapiti 19 (Manaia Osborne, Haamea Ahio, Anthony Fox tries; Brandyn Laursen 2 con)
North Otago 35 (Aleki Morris, Sala Halaleia 3, Sale Ti’i tries; Jason Forrest 2 con, 2 pen)
Buller 34 (Jesse Elley, Tai Ratu, Setafano Sauqaqa tries; Andrew Stephens 2 con, 5 pen)