ITM Cup Preview: Taranaki v Northland

Getty Images     28 Jul 2010     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Thursday July 29, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 43 – Taranaki 26, Northland 16, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: August 7, 2009 (Albany) – Northland 29-16 Taranaki.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: August 29, 2008 – Taranaki 39-21 Northland.

MATCH ODDS: TAB (Tuesday): Taranaki $1.18, Northland $4.50.

WALKING WOUNDED: Apart from Scott Waldrom's absence and the bracket concerning James Broadhurst, Taranaki has named its strongest side for this match. Northland has named what most would consider to be its strongest side, recognising that Matt Clutterbuck, Derek Carpenter and Justin Davies are long-term casualties.

FORM: Taranaki had a couple of narrow pre-season defeats to Hawke's Bay and Bay of Plenty, by four and three points respectively, and a solid win over Waikato in the Ryan Wheeler Memorial match. Northland beat North Harbour first up but was soundly thumped by Auckland in its last pre-season hit-out.

WHO'S HOT: There will be much interest in what is a new-look Taranaki backline with almost everyone there a Super 14 player. Tyson Keats may be the spark, as he was at the Hurricanes, but Kurt Baker has the ability to become the deadly finisher. As ever the forwards look strong and Craig Clarke will no doubt be in the thick of everything. After a frustrating time in 2009 Pat O’Connor will be looking for an injury-free run in the Northland engine room. Veteran David Holwell and new All Black Rene Ranger give Northland solidity where it matters and flair out wide; both will be watched closely.

WE THINK: Taranaki appeals as one of the dark horses this year and harbour realistic hopes of a top four finish. To get there they need to win games like this one, and should be looking to gather early try-scoring points. We think they'll get the win by 10-15 points but if the forecast rain comes in those tries might be a bit harder to collect.


Taranaki: 1. Shane Cleaver, 2. Laurence Corlett, 3. Michael Bent, 4. James Broadhurst or Leon Power, 5. Craig Clarke (captain), 6. Jarrad Hoeata, 7. Chris Walker, 8. Ben Souness, 9. Tyson Keats, 10. Willie Ripia, 11. David Smith, 12. Jayden Hayward, 13. George Pisi, 14. Andre Taylor, 15. Kurt Baker.

Reserves: 16. Timo Tutavaha, 17. Carl Carmichael, 18. Kane Barrett, 19. Samuela Vunisa, 20. Brett Goodin, 21. Isaia Tuifua, 22. Beauden Barrett.

Northland: 1. Matt Wallis, 2. Mikaele Tuu’u, 3. Bronson Murray, 4. Pat O'Connor, 5. Mark Burman, 6. Dean Budd, 7.Sam Barker, 8. Cameron Eyre, 9. Luke Hamilton, 10. David Holwell, 11. Lachie Munro, 12. Aaron Bancroft, 13. Rene Ranger, 14. Simon Munro, 15. Jared Payne (captain).

Reserves: 16. Tim Dow, 17. Paea Fa'anunu, 18. Roy Griffin, 19. Cameron Goodhew, 20. Rhyan Caine, 21. Iwi Hauraki, 22. Bryce Heem.

REFEREE: Garratt Williamson