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ITM Cup Preview: Wellington v Counties Manukau

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

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Sunday August 8, 14.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 27 - Wellington 14, Counties-Manukau 11, drawn 2.

LAST TIME: September 4, 2009 (Pukekohe) - Counties-Manukau 19-62 Wellington.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: August 15, 2008 - Wellington 64-7 Counties-Manukau.

MATCH ODDS: TAB (Tuesday): Wellington $1.15, Counties-Manukau $5.00.

WALKING WOUNDED: Dean Cummins and Tana Umaga are both missing from the Counties-Manukau lineup this week in the only two changes from the side that hammered Otago in the opener. Out from the Wellington side is prop John Schwalger and flanker Mark Reddish.

FORM:

SEASON TO DATE:
Wellington
Round 1: Beat Tasman 20-11

SEASON TO DATE:
Counties-Manukau
Round 1: Beat Otago 29-13

Both teams won in the opening round and Counties-Manukau was the more impressive, although Wellington's match against Tasman was played in terrible conditions that made flowing play all but impossible. That said, the Lions took a long time to establish any sort of dominance and it took a couple of inspired moments to put some distance between them and a gritty Tasman side. Counties-Manukau showed they are capable of lighting teams up that are not on top of their game; Otago controlled possession and territory for long periods but made little headway against a tough defence and when the Steelers were presented with attacking chances these were taken in some style.

WHO'S HOT: It was hard to make much of Wellington's first-round form, as the awful conditions limited both teams to forward-oriented game plans. We did see enough from young winger Julian Savea on his try-scroing run to understand what all the fuss is about, but Hosea Gear on the other flank had few opportunities. Wellington was solid up front, with Jeremy Thrush to the fore both in the lineouts and in general play. Counties-Manukau playe the open game they'll want to pursue all year, with spectacular results. Simon Lemalu's beard - with the rest of him not far behind - was prominent all day and the big man made several damaging runs as well as scrummaging strongly. Ahsee Tuala scored a couple of tries, confirming the good impression he made a year ago, and Tim Nanai-Williams continues to improve with each outing.

WE THINK: Although a lot of people would love to see Counties-Manukau deal to Wellington this week, we can't see it happening. Umaga's absence will no doubt have some effect but the Lions will have been given a message following a moderate first-up showing and we think they'll take it by 10-15 points.

TEAMS:

Wellington: 1. Red Goodes, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Neemia Tialata (captain), 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Daniel Ramsay, 6. Api Naikatini, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Faifili Levave, 9. Ruki Tipuna, 10. Fa'atonu Fili, 11. Hosea Gear, 12. Sean Treeby, 13. Alipate Leiua, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Apoua Stewart.

Reserves: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Justin Va'a, 18. TJ Ioane, 19. Masefau Leuluniu, 20. Jared Kahu, 21. Hayden Cripps, 22. Charlie Ngatai.

Counties-Manukau: 1. Simon Lemalu, 2. Grant Henson, 3. Jono Owen, 4. Taiasina Tuifua, 5. Jamie Chipman (captain), 6. Fritz Lee, 7. Pepa Kolomatangi, 8. Viliami Fihaki, 9. August Pulu, 10. Baden Kerr, 11. Sherwin Stowers, 12. Reynold Lee-Lo, 13. Siale Piutau, 14. Ahsee Tuala, 15. Tim Nanai-Williams.

Reserves: 16. Mark Price, 17. Jeremiah Fatialofa, 18. Ronald Raaymakers, 19. Mark Selwyn, 20. Samisoni Fisilau, 21. James Semple, 22. David Raikuna.

REFEREE: Shaun Elliott