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ITM Cup Preview: Northland v North Harbour

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Friday, August 6, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Northland Events Centre, Whangarei, Sunday August 8, 16.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 31 – Northland 10, North Harbour 20, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: August 21, 2009 (Albany) – North Harbour 23-26 Northland.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: July 28, 2007 – Northland 27-27 North Harbour.

MATCH ODDS: TAB (Tuesday): Northland $1.65, North Harbour $2.15.

WALKING WOUNDED: Northland has no problems and has named the same 22 that started against Taranaki last week. Harbour got good news on the locking front during the week, as James King has made a quicker than expected recovery will start; Anthony Boric also makes a return and Filo Paulo is fit enough to take a bench spot. Ben Afeaki didn’t make it after injuring his ribs last week but Chris Smylie returns at halfback in another move that will please Craig Dowd.

FORM:

SEASON TO DATE:
Northland
Round 1: Beat Taranaki 26-19

SEASON TO DATE:
North Harbour
Round 1: Lost to Auckland 14-36

Northland was the surprise packet of the first round, bowling a highly-regarded Taranaki side at New Plymouth. Never out of touch and benefitting from gift tries either side of halftime, Northland managed to shut Taranaki out on the way to a deserved victory. North Harbour had Auckland’s number for 20 minutes at Albany, before the Auckland forwards stopped mucking about and got stuck in. The game changed in minutes, Auckland took over in all areas and eventually piled up 36 unanswered points to win comfortably.

WHO'S HOT: Rene Ranger was the outstanding figure of last week’s match, dangerous on attack an punishing on defence. His form lifted all his colleagues, especially when things got tight. Bronson Murray is always strong in Northland’s front row and Lachie Munro looks set to have another season of high scoring, both with the boot and some timely tries. Tom Chamberlain was prominent for North Harbour, especially in the early going, but his yellow card hurt the team later. Matt Luamanu was buried in the tight and his power with ball in hand was seldom seen; a move to blindside flank this week will allow him more freedom. Luke McAlister did some good things and his early 63m penalty was a cracker, but he faded – both in general play and off the tee - as the game went on.

WE THINK: Northland created the surprise of round one with an excellent win, while North Harbour struggled. Although Harbour is a lot stronger this week we’re going to call this one for Northland, by five to ten points, but wouldn’t put any money on the result between two notoriously unpredictable sides.

TEAMS:

Northland: 1. Matt Wallis, 2. Mikaele Tuu’u, 3. Bronson Murray, 4. Pat O’Connor, 5. Mark Burman, 6. Dean Budd, 7. Dan Pryor, 8. Cameron Eyre, 9. Luke Hamilton, 10. David Holwell, 11. Lachie Munro, 12. Aaron Bancroft, 13. Rene Ranger, 14. Simon Munro, 15. Jared Payne (captain).

Reserves: 16. Tim Dow, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Roy Griffin, 19. Cameron Goodhew, 20. Rhyan Caine, 21. Iwi Hauraki, 22. Bryce Heem.

North Harbour: 1. Michael Reid (captain), 2. James Parsons, 3. Ben Afeaki, 4. Matt Luamanu, 5. Shane Neville, 6. Tom Chamberlain, 7. Scott Uren, 8. Richard Mayhew, 9. Grayson Hart, 10. Michael Harris, 11. Alipate Fatafehi, 12. Luke McAlister, 13. Brendon Watt, 14. Ken Pisi, 15. Jack McPhee.

Reserves: 16. Mike Mayhew, 17. Taione Vea, 18. William Whetton, 19. Malakai Ravulo, 20. Nalu Tuigamala, 21. Ben Botica, 22. Jack Tarrant.

REFEREE: Ben Skeen