ITM Cup Preview: Wellington v Waikato

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Friday, August 20, 2010    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday August 21, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 63 – Wellington 33, Waikato 29, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: September 18, 2009 (Hamilton) – Waikato 23-18 Wellington.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 13, 2008 – Wellington 45-33 Waikato.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Wellington $1.40, Waikato $2.75.

WALKING WOUNDED: Wellington has named the same run-on XV as last week, although Charlie Ngatai and Shaun Treeby swap jerseys, and the one new face on the bench is 2009 New Zealand Schools first-five Lima Sopoaga. Aled de Malmanche returns for Waikato and takes over from Vern Kamo at hooker, while Romana Graham has been benched for this match.


Round 1: Beat Tasman 20-11
Round 2: Lost to Counties-Manukau 25-31
Round 3: Beat Otago 35-22

Round 1: Beat Bay of Plenty 13-10
Round 2: Beat Auckland 21-18
Round 3: Lost to Taranaki 23-33

Both sides go into this match with two wins and one loss, but Waikato has been the more impressive of the pair and has faced much tougher opposition so far. Wellington did enough to get all five points at Carisbrook but still had moments when little seemed to be going right, although the Lions were never seriously threatened. Waikato lost a rugged clash to Taranaki on Sunday afternoon, with the game turning on a couple of sin-binnings just as the Mooloos were getting on a roll. It was perhaps a bit odd that two Waikato players got marched after a fight – one would have thought the Taranaki player involved (Laurence Corlett) should have gone with them – and while Waikato defended stoutly during that period its momentum had been lost, never to return.

WHO'S HOT: Julian Savea looked good (again) on the Wellington wing, picking up a couple of tries after collecting well-placed kicks. The Lions backline looked sharper with Alby Mathewson at halfback. The biggest change was that he wasn't just dumping the ball off to his tight forwards to rumble ahead; instead his decision-making kept Otago's defence stretched. Mark Reddish had a strong game at blindside, working hard and proving to be a good source of lineout ball. Romana Graham had a good / bad day for Waikato, scoring a try and winning some good ball but his indiscipline – the fight had nothing to do with him – hurt the Mooloos. Trent Renata controlled play well when he got decent possession and had a perfect day off the tee, while Save Tokula was always dangerous given a modicum of room.

WE THINK: It goes against the grain to tip against Wellington at home, as the Lions are very tough to beat on their own patch, but we're going to do it this week. As noted earlier, Waikato has looked the better of the two sides so far and should be good enough to claim this one by five to ten points.


Wellington: 1. John Schwalger, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Neemia Tialata (captain), 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Daniel Ramsay, 6. Mark Reddish, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Faifili Levave, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Fa'atonu Fili, 11. Hosea Gear, 12. Charlie Ngatai, 13. Sean Treeby, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Apoua Stewart.

Reserves: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Jacob Ellison, 18. Api Naikatini, 19. TJ Ioane, 20. Ruki Tipuna, 21. Lima Sopoaga, 22. Alipate Leiua.

Waikato: 1. Toby Smith, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 3. Nathan White (captain), 4. Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 5. Toby Lynn, 6. Liam Messam, 7. Jack Lam, 8. Alex Bradley, 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. Romana Graham, 19. Matt Vant Leven, 20. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21. Tim Mikkelson, 22. Sam Christie.

REFEREE: Chris Pollock