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Preview: Tasman v Hawke's Bay

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Sportal.co.nz     22 Sep 2013     Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 5; Tasman 3, Hawke's Bay 2.

LAST TIME: August 2, 2011 (Napier) – Hawke's Bay 19-21 Tasman.

MISSING IN ACTION: Robbie Malneek is elevated to the starting fullback's position after usual No.15 Marty Banks was unavailable through illness. Tom Marshall also returns from swine flu that saw miss their clash against North Harbour and he will assume the goalkicking duties.

Andrew Horrell returns for Hawke's Bay to start at centre while Adrian Barone replaces Brendon Edmonds at loosehead prop. Edmonds moves into tighthead prop to cover All Black Ben Franks' absence while Ash Dixon secures the starting hooker's jersey at the expense of Ged Robinson.

Horrell's replacing of Adam Bradey is one of four changes Philpott has made to his starting XV used in the "houdini" win against Northland. Adrian Barone replaces Brendon Edmonds at loosehead prop, Edmonds replaces All Black Ben Franks at tighthead prop and Hurricanes hooker Ash Dixon replaces former Junior All Black Ged Robinson.

FORM: Tasman should be proud of their strong showing so far in 2013 despite their most recent result. Starting the season with a precious away win over Southland, Tasman secured a massive 49-16 win over Otago, their first over their southern neighbours recovering from a Ranfurly Shield hangover.

They were sailing towards top spot in the Championship when they arrived at North Harbour Stadium last Friday. They left Albany reeling after suffering an embarrassing 12-23 defeat that condemned them to their fourth defeat in five matches against the low-lying Championship side.

Hawke's Bay have tasted highs and lows in their six matches to date this season. They started by securing the Ranfurly Shield over Otago only to surrender it less than a week later. They've managed to put aside that disappointment with a tight 31-26 victory over Northland.

WE THINK: We're in for another fascinating top-of-the-table clash this weekend. With Wellington getting over Canterbury in the top-two clash of the Premiership on Saturday, it's up to these two sides to match that spectacle. There is arguably more at stake in this one than the Premiership matchup, with promotion to the top division the ever-present carrot for both sides.

A win will take either of the two teams to the top of the Championship and with three more rounds to play, confirmation of a spot in the semi-finals will also spur the two teams on.

An intriguing midfield battle looms between the centre pairing of Marshall and Kieron Fonotia of Tasman and Hawke's Bay's Horrell and Richard Buckman.

Expect a valiant battle from Hawke's Bay, but playing at Trafalgar Park and Quentin MacDonald's 50th match will be enough motivation for the hosts.
Tasman by 6.

TEAMS:
Tasman:
1. Tim Perry, 2. Quentin MacDonald, 3. Siua Halanukonuka, 4. Alex Ainley, 5. Joe Wheeler, 6. Shane Christie (c), 7. Gary Redmond, 8. Liam Squire, 9. Mark Swanepoel, 10. Hayden Cripps, 11. James Lowe, 12. Tom Marshall, 13. Kieron Fonotia, 14. Bryce Heem, 15. Robbie Malneek.

Substitutes: 16. Francis Smith, 17. Sila Puafisi, 18. Tevita Cavubati, 19. Vernon Fredericks, 20. Billy Guyton, 21. Andy Symons, 22. Mitchell Scott

Hawke's Bay:
1. Adrian Barone, 2. Ash Dixon, 3. Brendon Edmonds, 4. Michael Allardice, 5. Mark Abbott, 6. Michael Coman, 7. Brendon O'Connor, 8. Mark Atkins, 9. Chris Eaton, 10. Ihaia West, 11. Zac Guildford, 12. Andrew Horrell, 13. Richard Buckman, 14. Telusa Veainu, 15. Trinity Spooner-Neera.

Substitutes: 16. Jesse MacDonald, 17. Max Lahiff/Jody Allen, 18. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 19. Karl Lowe, 20. Alby Mathewson, 21. Regis Lespinas, 22. Bronson Neera.