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Air NZ Cup Preview: Northland v Bay of Plenty

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Sportal.co.nz     22 Aug 2008     Getty Images

Both teams have long traditions of playing hard, bruising rugby and, with plenty on the line, expect more of the same in this match.

VENUE & TIME: Homeworld Stadium, Whangarei, Friday August 22, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 51 – Northland 31, Bay of Plenty 19, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: August 9, 2007 (Rotorua) – Bay of Plenty 17-24 Northland.

WALKING WOUNDED: Northland has made three changes, with only one being prompted by injury. Joel McKenty was ineffective after taking an early knock last week, so debutant Hamish Patterson starts in the No 7 jersey. Tyler Ashworth and Blair Urlich return to the starting lineup. Bay of Plenty has no injury concerns at present other than a slight question mark over Solomon King; if he is scratched, Luke Braid will move into the starting XV. John Pareanga is back after missing a week with a slight strain.

FORM: Northland has been there or thereabouts in every match to date, but has only one win to show for it. The team is in the middle of the pack in most statistical categories and currently sits eighth on the ladder, which is probably a fair reflection of its season. Bay of Plenty bolted out of the blocks, racking up 14 of a possible 15 points in the first three rounds by playing sensible rugby, paying attention to the basics and taking chances when they are presented. The Steamers rate highly in many important areas; they are second in tries scored, points scored and line breaks but – perhaps most importantly – also in turnovers conceded. The lineout and defensive stats are also impressive.

WHO'S HOT: Northland will ask its pack to do a lot of hard work, carting the ball up and looking after it in contact – which they do well. All the forwards are strong but the most important tonight will be Justin Collins, newcomer Hamish Patterson and Blair Urlich, who face an in-form Bay loose trio of King, Tanerau Latimer and Colin Bourke. David Holwell, as ever, will play a huge part in his team's fortunes and if Fetu'u Vainikolo gets the ball and a modicum of space, watch out. Jamie Nutbrown and Mike Delany run the tactical side for the Steamers and have done so impressively, while Zar Lawrence is always threatening when he runs from the back.

WE THINK: Although Northland is hoping for a big crowd and strong support, we suspect the Steamers will be too strong. They have won well in different fashions in 2008 and the try that secured the win last week was as good a team try as you will see. We'll take the Bay by 10-12 points, possibly with a bonus thrown in.

TEAMS:

Northland: 1 – Tony Coughlan, 2 – Tyler Ashworth, 3 – Bronson Murray, 4 – Dan Goodwin, 5 – Marty Veale, 6 – Justin Collins (captain), 7 – Hamish Patterson, 8 – Blair Urlich, 9 – James Rodley, 10 – David Holwell, 11 – Fetu’u Vainikolo, 12 – Leo Taliu, 13 – Aiden Dewes, 14 – Rene Ranger, 15 – Jared Payne.

Reserves: 16 – Francis Smith, 17 – Justin Davies, 18 – Roy Griffin, 19 – Joel McKenty, 20 – Kaino Kaino, 21 – Derek Carpenter, 22 – Damien Fakafanua.

Bay of Plenty: 1 – Joe Savage, 2 – John Pareanga, 3 – James McGougan, 4 – John Moore, 5 – Culum Retallick, 6 – Solomon King, 7 – Tanerau Latimer (captain), 8 – Colin Bourke, 9 - Jamie Nutbrown, 10 – Mike Delany, 11 – Jason Hona, 12 – Nigel Hunt, 13 – Corey Aporo, 14 – Lance MacDonald, 15 – Zar Lawrence.

Reserves: 16 – Dean Elmiger, 17 – Arden David-Perrot, 18 – Aidan Kuka, 19 – Luke Braid, 20 – Josh Hall, 21 – Paula Asaeli, 22 – Teu Nafe.

REFEREE: Chris Pollock