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ITM Cup Preview: Waikato v Taranaki

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Sportal.co.nz     13 Aug 2010     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, Sunday August 15, 16.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 74 – Waikato 40, Taranaki 28, drawn 6.

LAST TIME: September 25, 2009 (New Plymouth) – Taranaki 14-15 Waikato.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: July 24, 2009 – Waikato 28-24 Taranaki (non-championship).

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Waikato $1.60, Taranaki $2.25.

WALKING WOUNDED: Liam Messam, who is not travelling with the All Blacks, will be back for Waikato this week and his presence should add to what is already a rugged Waikato pack. Alex Bradley and Vern Kamo move into the starting pack with Aled de Malmanche bracketed on the bench, while the backline is the same as against Auckland. Taranaki has named an unchanged side for the third straight week.

FORM:

SEASON TO DATE:
Waikato
Round 1: Beat Bay of Plenty 13-10
Round 2: Beat Auckland 21-18

SEASON TO DATE:
Taranaki
Round 1: Lost to Northland 19-26
Round 2: Beat Tasman 33-11

Waikato is two from two following a couple of hard-earned wins over other tough sides in Bay of Plenty and Auckland. Both victories may only have been by three points, but a lot of sides are not going to manage that double this season and it has got Waikato’s campaign off to a flying start. The highlight of Waikato’s season to date has been some sterling defence across the park. Taranaki looked a lot better last week, with the backline clicking and the forwards providing better ball. After a messy opener, the side produced more of the patterned football we expect from them and played far more positively as a result.

WHO'S HOT: The Waikato forwards worked with a will at Eden Park and it was hard to single one out, but Jack Lam is often an unsung hero for his team. His high work rate and tackle count set the standards and he can be very effective at the breakdown. Dwayne Sweeney was the key man in both Waikato tries and played strongly on attack and defence, while young replacement halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow made perhaps the critical play when he disrupted Auckland’s scrum delivery late in the match, forcing a turnover that eventually led to the winning points. With Taranaki sorting its gameplan out, big James Broadhurst was more prominent with his aerial ability and commitment to forward drives. He has the size and skill to be a major player in the amber and black this year. Tyson Keats looked right at home behind the pack, driving them on and scoring an opportunist try, while Beauden Barrett showed a lot of commitment in nailing James Kamana near the corner when a Tasman try looked all but certain.

WE THINK: Fot the third week in a row Waikato is booked for a difficult contest and it’s going to be as close as the other two. Much head-scratching went on before our call – Waikato by a couple of points – was finalised.

TEAMS:

Waikato: 1. Toby Smith, 2. Vern Kamo, 3. Nathan White (captain), 4. Romana Graham, 5. Toby Lynn, 6. Liam Messam, 7. Jack Lam, 8. Alex Bradley, 9. Brendon Leonard, 10. Trent Renata, 11. Dwayne Sweeney, 12. Christian Leali’ifano, 13. Save Tokula, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Sosene Anesi.

Reserves: 16. Aled de Malmanche or Andre Ellison, 17. Hikairo Forbes, 18. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 19. Matt Vant Leven, 20. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21. Tim Mikkelson, 22. Sam Christie.

Taranaki: 1. Shane Cleaver, 2. Laurence Corlett, 3. Michael Bent, 4. James Broadhurst, 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. Samuela Vunisa, 19. Scott Waldrom, 20. Brett Goodin, 21. Isaia Tuifua, 22. Beauden Barrett.

REFEREE: Nick Briant