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ITM Cup Preview: Northland v Manawatu

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Sportal.co.nz     13 Aug 2010     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Northland Events Centre, Whangarei, Sunday August 15, 14.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 24 – Northland 16, Manawatu 6, drawn 2.

LAST TIME: September 20, 2009 (Palmerston North) – Manawatu 18-25 Northland.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 28, 2008 – Northland 45-24 Manawatu.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Northland $1.35, Manawatu $3.00.

WALKING WOUNDED: Rene Ranger, restored to the All Black squad, will miss this match as he’s wanted on the South African trip and the Northland backline has been shuffled as a result, but 14 of the 15 started last week. One day soon Manawatu will get good news on the injury front but last week certainly wasn’t that day. Jamie Oliver’s elbow dislocation was not television for the squeamish, and he will be missed this weekend. Otherwise Dave Rennie has done little more than tinker with his bench.

FORM:

SEASON TO DATE:
Northland
Round 1: Beat Taranaki 26-19
Round 2: Lost to North Harbour 24-25

SEASON TO DATE:
Manawatu
Round 1: Lost to Southland 23-37
Round 2: Lost to Canterbury 26-27

Both sides were hard-luck losers in round two after each had run up a big lead around halftime. Northland was 21-6 in front at one stage but bombed a number of scoring chances after the break while North Harbour took almost all theirs and, despite really good discipline in the last sequence, Ben Botica punished the Cambridge Blues with his 83rd minute dropped goal. Manawatu led Canterbury 26-8 before injuries – each one to a key player – and a yellow card let Canterbury back into the match. The visitors still had to score three times to win it, which they managed through some slick back play and strong running. Missed goal kicks – Manawatu was a combined three from eight off the tee – really hurt the home side.

WHO'S HOT: David Holwell again showed that he’s one of the best provincial first-fives in the country with his umpteenth steady game in the Northland No 10 jersey a week ago. Northland’s new loose forward Dean Budd is impressing with his strong all-round game and good ball-running, while Mark Burman has added plenty of grunt to a tight five that’s travelling quite nicely. Grant Polson can be relied upon for an honest effort in the Manawatu front row each week, while New Zealand Sevens stars Tomasi Cama and Lote Raikabula both turned on the style as Manawatu was building its lead last week; between them they scored three of the four tries and Cama was instrumental in setting up the fourth.

WE THINK: This match will tell us a bit more about two sides that need the breaks this year, and not the sort of breaks Manawatu players are suffering. Both sides can and do play positive, attacking rugby so this should be a very watchable match and we think Northland will emerge with the points in what should be a close contest.

TEAMS:

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

Reserves: 16. Tim Dow, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Roy Griffin, 19. Cameron Goodhew, 20. Rhyan Caine, 21. Iwi Hauraki, 22. Adam Clarke.

Manawatu: 1. Grant Polson (captain), 2. Rob Foreman, 3. Ma’afu Fia, 4. Michael Fitzgerald, 5. Reece Robinson, 6. Nick Crosswell, 7. Doug Tietjens, 8. Hamish Gosling, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Tomasi Cama, 11. Lote Raikabula, 12. Hadleigh Parkes, 13. Shannon Paku, 14. Casey Stone, 15. Craig Clare.

Reserves: 16. Sean O’Connor, 17. Shane Kingsland, 18. Fraser Stone, 19. Mitchell Crosswell or Bertus Mulder, 20. Karl Bryson, 21. Isaac Thompson, 22. Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

REFEREE: Bryce Lawrence