ITM Cup Preview: Auckland v Waikato

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Thursday, August 5, 2010    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday August 7, 14.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 133 – Auckland 93, Waikato 35, drawn 5.

LAST TIME: October 24, 2009 (Hamilton) – Waikato 18-26 Auckland.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: August 11, 2007 – Auckland 47-26 Waikato.

MATCH ODDS: TAB (Tuesday): Auckland $1.30, Waikato $3.30.

WALKING WOUNDED: Auckland named the same 22 that was too strong for North Harbour in the opener, with the only lineup change a fairly predictable one at first-five where Matt Berquist gets the start ahead of Ash Moeke. Waikato has lost Liam Messam to the All Black squad and Jackson Willison to a hamstring strain, which has led to a straight swap at blindside flanker but a reshuffle in the backline.


Round 1: Beat North Harbour 36-14

Round 1: Beat Bay of Plenty 13-10

After a poor opening quarter at Albany and some strong talking from the skipper, Auckland's forwards stopped fringing and put their backs into the hard stuff, with immediate effect. From that point on Auckland controlled the match, scored points regularly and put 36 unanswered on the board to run out a comfortable winner. Waikato had to work much harder at Hamilton, as some outstanding Bay of Plenty defence shut down several potential try-scoring moves. The Mooloos did get ahead by halftime, when Brendon Leonard managed to get across, but the game remained close and Waikato had some nervous late moments as they spent 10 minutes with a man in the bin and then watched a last-ditch penalty attempt fall just short.

WHO'S HOT: Daniel Braid had a strong match last week, doing a lot of work on both sides of the ball. His leadership was also evident when Auckland made a scratchy opening, only to get its act together after a few stern words. Onosai'i Auva'a also made a good beginning with an aggressive all-round display. Another of Auckland's returnees, Ben Atiga, was solid in midfield and showed some nice touches on attack. Waikato's forwards muscled up against the Steamers, with new skipper Nathan White leading from the front. Brendon Leonard was the star of that game and a constant threat in all areas; his one try could easily have been three but for some desperate defence. We saw enough from Christian Leali'ifano to suggest he will pose a danger to unwary defences.

WE THINK: This promises to be one of the better matches this weekend, especially if the day is fine. Although both teams are strong we like the look of Auckland's all-Super 14 pack and, on that basis, are prepared to tip the home side by five to ten points.


Auckland: 1. Tevita Mailau, 2. Tom McCartney, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4.Kurtis Haiu, 5. Andrew van der Heijden, 6. Onosai'i Auva'a, 7. Daniel Braid, 8. Peter Saili, 9. Toby Morland, 10. Matt Berquist, 11. Chay Raui, 12. Jamie Helleur, 13. Ben Atiga, 14. Atieli Pakalani, 15. Brent Ward.

Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Pauliasi Manu, 18. Liaki Moli, 19. Chris Lowery, 20. Brenton Helleur, 21. Ash Moeke, 22. Dave Thomas.

Waikato: 1. Toby Smith, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 3. Nathan White (captain), 4. Romana Graham, 5. Toby Lynn, 6. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 7. Jack Lam, 8. Stephen Setephano, 9. Brendon Leonard, 10. Trent Renata, 11. Dwayne Sweeney, 12. Christian Leali'ifano, 13. Save Tokula, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Sosene Anesi.

Reserves: 16. Vern Kamo, 17. Hikairo Forbes, 18. Matt Vant Leven, 19. Alex Bradley, 20. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21. Tim Mikkelson, 22. Sam Christie.

REFEREE: Vinny Munro