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Preview: Taranaki v Bay of Plenty

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Sportal.co.nz     20 Sep 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 39, Taranaki 23, Bay of Plenty 16

LAST TIME: Taranaki 37 beat Bay of Plenty 22 at Mt Maunganui, 2012

WALKING WOUNDED: Isaia Tuifua returns from injury at second five-eighths for Taranaki while Waisake Naholo comes back from injury to the bench. Still out with injuries are Jarrad Hoeata and Ope Peleseuma.

FORM: Taranaki have had an undulating season with worrying troughs. They were hammered 51-15 by Auckland at home and then thrashed 7-44 by Counties-Manukau in last weekend's Ranfurly Shield match. There have been victories over Southland 15-14 and Hawke's Bay 23-10 but consistency has been absent. Bay of Plenty have lost four in succession, most recently to Championship side Southland 25-33. The win over Hawke's Bay 24-20 seems a long time ago.

WE THINK: The move by Taranaki coach Colin Cooper to start with his comparatively juvenile inside-back pairing of Jamison Gibson-Park and Beaudein Waaka is an interesting one, and something that Taranaki fans feel is well overdue. Cooper was frustrated by the lack of attitude in the Shield challenge and that could be a powerful motivation for the side in this key game. Bay of Plenty's plight was exposed by lowly Southland and it will take a massive effort to lift their game, especially away from home. However, it only needs an effort to match Taranaki in the tight to create the chances to pressure the home side and force errors that could allow goal-kicker Willie Ripia to get the Steamers home. But it will be a tall order against an equally desperate Taranaki side.

Taranaki by 7.

TEAMS

Taranaki: 1.Carl Carmichael, 2. Timo Tutavaha, 3.Ryan Cocker 4.Kane Barrett (captain), 5.James Broadhurst, 6.Mitchell Crosswell, 7.Doug Tietjens, 8.Blade Thomson, 9.Jamison Gibson-Park, 10.Beaudein Waaka, 11.Seta Tamanivalu, 12.Isaia Tuifua, 13.Andre Taylor, 14.Jackson Ormond, 15.Kurt Baker.

Replacements: 16.Rhys Marshall,17.Sione Lea, 18.Nemia Soqeta, 19.Mitchell Brown, 20.Chris Smylie, 21.Daniel Brooks, 22.Waisake Naholo.

Bay of Plenty: 1.Kane Harris, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Pingi Tala'apitaga, 4.Culum Retallick, 5.Josh Sole, 6.Johan Bardoul, 7.Tanerau Latimer, 8.Joe Tupe, 9.Samisoni Fisilau, 10.Willie Ripia, 11.Kimami Sitauti, 12.Nick Evemy, 13.Kenny Lynn, 14.Tino Nemani, 15.Elliott Hagen.

Reserves: 16.Kalen Chan Boon, 17.Joe Royal, 18.Tim Bond, 19.Beau Robinson, 20.Josh Hall, 21.Sam Beard, 22.Junior RofaVa'a.