Auckland sealed second spot, two points less than table-toppers Canterbury, after a comprehensive 67-run victory over Wellington at Basin Reserve. The defeat not only ended Wellington's chances of making the semi-final, it consigned them to the bottom of the table.
Auckland's mammoth total of 320 was set up by a century from opener Lou Vincent and quickfire contributions from captain Gareth Hopkins and Greg Todd. Vincent and Hopkins put on 109 for the third wicket at 7.34 runs to carry Auckland to 188 for 2 in just the 33rd over. Both batsmen scored freely as the Wellington bowlers struggled to keep the run-rate in check. Hopkins was dismissed for 54 off just 48 balls but Vincent continued to torment the bowlers, reaching his 100 off 107 balls. He added a further 53 with Todd before he was finally dismissed for 112. Todd made a rapid 48 to propel Auckland closer to 300 and Colin Munro and Roneel Hira hit some big shots lower down the order to carry Auckland to 320 for 9.
It was never going to be an easy chase for Wellington who are currently at the bottom of the points table, having won just two of their previous seven games. Opener Stephen Murdoch, in the news for Jesse Ryder's tweet about him, made a half-century and Grant Elliott made 46, but they failed to receive much support from the other Wellington batsmen. Hopkins used seven bowlers and all of them were among the wickets as Wellington were bowled out 253 in just under 47 overs.
Canterbury confirmed their place at the top of the points table after they comfortably beat Otago by five wickets at Aorangi Oval in Timaru. Otago elected to bat and started solidly with openers Aaron Redmond and Michael Bracewell putting on 54 in just under 11 overs before Redmond was run out. Rob Nicol struck three times but Craig Cumming and Darren Broom added 91 runs and at 205 for 4, with little over five overs to go, Otago looked like they had the platform for a big total.
However Broom was run out soon after he reached his half-century, and his dismissal in the 45th over triggered a collapse. Derek de Boorder was run out in the next over and Mitchell Claydon dismissed Craig Cumming, who top scored with 66, and Warren McSkimming, in the 47th over followed by Nick Beard and Neil Wagner in the 49th over. Otago slumped to 220 all out, failing to bat out their 50 overs.
Canterbury started poorly losing openers Nicol and Michael Papps cheaply. A 54-run partnership between Dean Brownlie and Peter Fulton steadied the innings. Fulton then combined with Shanan Stewart to put on 66 runs to set Canterbury on track for victory. Fulton was dismissed for 77, but Stewart remained unbeaten on 65 as his unbroken 86-run stand with Andrew Ellis (55) carried Canterbury to an easy victory.
Central Districts had already been knocked out of the tournament, but they at least had the satisfaction of signing off on a winning note, beating Northern Districts by five runs in a thriller in Whangarei.
Peter Ingram clubbed 12 fours on his way to a quick 64 before Tim Weston made a less explosive but effective 99 - unbeaten one short of his maiden century when the innings ended - pushed CD to 246. They seemed to have the game in the bag when ND slid to 87 for 5, but it turned out to be a close game thanks to BJ Watling's century and Peter McGlashan's 69.
The pair were at the crease when ND needed 16 from the final two overs, but a superb penultimate over from Michael Mason, who conceded only three, left them chasing 13 off the last six deliveries. Highly-rated youngster Adam Milne proved CD's hero as he had McGlashan caught behind, and it boiled down to eight off two. Milne gave away only singles off them to clinch the victory. ND had the consolation of making the semi-finals after Wellington's defeat to Auckland.