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Farah Palmer Cup preview: round three

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Campbell Burnes     14 Sep 2018     Getty Images

Both sides are 2-0 but their records will go under the blowtorch this weekend in round three of the Farah Palmer Cup.

A 17-point haul by Black Ferns five-eighth Chelsea Alley helped drive Waikato to a 44-7 defeat of Bay of Plenty in round two, but now the leaders face the defending champs Canterbury in Christchurch. The Cantabs scored six tries against the Wellington Pride but will be stung by the 43-38 crossover reverse. Furthermore, the JJ Stewart Memorial Trophy is on the line.

The Pride, who lent on doubles to Ayesha Leti-Liga and Jackie Patea-Fereti and a hat-trick to Monica Tagoai, will now host Championship leader Otago in Porirua. The two sides are evenly matched, both historically and with their current squads.

The Otago Spirit are fresh off a 31-12 win over the Hawke’s Bay Tuis, and have compiled the maximum 10 competition points. 

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There is an enticing televised match-up in Pukekohe which should see many punters get along early on Saturday to Navigation Homes Stadium, for we have a replay of the 2016 Farah Palmer Cup final and 2017 semifinal at this ground. The Counties Manukau Heat triumphed on both occasions against their northern neighbours, but Auckland will be champing at the bit after hitting top gear in the 86-0 blanking of Tasman last Friday night at Eden Park.

The Storm pack has a powerful look to it, with no less than six Black Ferns lining up plus Aldora Itunu off the bench. Rauhei Demant wears the No 12 jersey again after a virtuoso display of 31 points, including three tries, against the Mako. That equalled Tammi Wilson’s 19-year-old record for an individual match points haul for the Storm. Mele Hufanga, with 36 tries in 41 games for the Storm, offers serious firepower in the No 22 jersey.

The Taranaki Whio’s search for their maiden win continues when they host the Hawke’s Bay Tuis in Inglewood in their first ever official meeting.
In the final Premiership clash – there are no crossover matches this weekend – the Manawatu Cyclones will seek to bounce back after suffering a 31-22 loss to the Heat in round two when they host the Bay of Plenty Volcanix. Lauren Balsillie scored a brace for the Cyclones, and she will line up on the left wing.

Of note is the re-introduction to the Cyclones ranks of No 10 Kalyn Takitimu-Cook, who was playing in the Top 4 First XV finals for her Manukura school last weekend in Palmerston North. Carys Dallinger, another Manukura player, will be a replacement. Takitumu-Cook will partner in the halves with her First XV coach, Black Ferns halfback Kristina Sue.

Two blazer games are the features of the Volcanix match-day squad of 22. Captain and No 6 Christie Yule will play her 15th game for the side, as will Baye Jacob when she enters the fray off the pine. The Volcanix will seek to get plenty of ball into wing Renee Wickliffe’s hands.

The Harbour Hibiscus will be firm favourites in Sunday’s second televised game, against fellow Championship team the Tasman Mako. Lock Sophie Fisher had a big day out in the 59-0 defeat to Taranaki, racking up 24 points, including two tries, which smashed the old Hibiscus record.

The match-ups:

Wellington v Otago (Championship)

Saturday September 15, 11.30am at Porirua Park, Porirua
Referee: (Tim Griffiths, Manawatu)
Played: 20 (1999-2017)
Wins: Wellington 11, Otago 9
Last match: Wellington 41 Otago 19 (September 30, 2017)

Counties Manukau v Auckland (Premiership)
Saturday September 15, 11.35am at Navigation Homes Stadium, Pukekohe
Referee: Hugh Reed (Hawke’s Bay)
Played: 9 (1999-2017)
Wins: Auckland 5, Counties Manukau 4
Last match: Counties Manukau 22 Auckland 17 (October 21, 2017, FPCSF)

Canterbury v Waikato (Premiership)
Saturday September 15, 1pm at Rugby Park, Christchurch
Referee: Lara West (Australia)
Played: 11 (2001-17)
Wins: Canterbury 9, Waikato 2
Last match: Canterbury 60 Waikato 26 (October 21, 2017, FPCSF)

Taranaki v Hawke’s Bay (Championship)
Saturday September 15, 2.30pm at TET Stadium, Inglewood
Referee: Nick Hogan (Wellington)
Played: N/A
Wins: N/A
Last match: N/A

Manawatu v Bay of Plenty (Premiership)
Saturday September 15, 2.30pm at Central Energy Trust Stadium, Palmerston North
Referee: Damian McPherson (Poverty Bay)
Played: 6 (2003-15)
Wins: Manawatu 4, Bay of Plenty 2
Last match: Manawatu 29 Bay of Plenty 7 (August 22, 2015)

North Harbour v Tasman (Championship)
Sunday September 16, 11.35am at QBE Stadium, Albany
Referee: Angus Mabey (Auckland)
Played: 1 (2017)
Wins: North Harbour 1, Tasman 0
Last match: North Harbour 25 Tasman 12 (October 8, 2017)