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ITM Cup Preview: Wellington v Northland

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Friday, August 27, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Saturday August 28, 17.30 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 30 – Wellington 20, Northland 8, drawn 2.

LAST TIME: October 11, 2009 (Whangarei) – Northland 7-41 Wellington.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: October 2, 2004 – Wellington 65-12 Northland.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Wellington $1.17, Northland $4.50.

WALKING WOUNDED: Daniel Ramsay (shoulder) will miss the next few weeks for Wellington but the good news was that Victor Vito (All Black duty) and Rodney So'oialo (injury) are back in the lineup. Mark Reddish moves to lock in Ramsay's place. The only change to Northland's starting lineup sees Rene Ranger return on the wing for Iwi Hauraki.

FORM:

SEASON TO DATE:
Wellington
Round 1: Beat Tasman 20-11
Round 2: Lost to Counties-Manukau 25-31
Round 3: Beat Otago 35-22
Round 4: Beat Waikato 26-14

SEASON TO DATE:
Northland
Round 1: Beat Taranaki 26-19
Round 2: Lost to North Harbour 24-25
Round 3: Beat Manawatu 77-8
Round 4: Lost to Auckland 13-26

Wellington did enough to take four points off Waikato last week and maintain fifth place on the ladder, even if they couldn't put the Mooloos away. Had the visitors taken all their scoring chances a dominant Wellington side may have been in trouble, but we all know how much ‘If' counts for. Northland battled hard against Auckland but made little headway against a solid midfield defence, although a couple of half-chances went begging at critical times. The final score was a fair refelction of play, with the two sides scoring from errors rather than opportunities they created for themselves.

WHO'S HOT: Two two-test All Blacks really stood up for Wellington when it mattered last weekend. John Schwalger was strong in the front row and impressive around the park, doing a lot at the breakdown and on defence. His example encouraged a few of his tight five colleagues to do a bit more tough stuff, with the result Wellington controlled territory and possession for much of the game. Hosea Gear may not be getting the chances that are falling to Julian Savea, but his work-rate couldn't be faulted and his spot tackle on Jack Lam was a try-killer. First-five Fa'atonu Fili also played his best game at this level for a while and dictated terms nicely. Northland did a lot of good work at the breakdown, winning ten turnovers thanks to its committed pack, but the scrum was under pressure. Bronson Murray hung tough on a difficult day and reserve lock Roy Griffin made an impact when he arrived on the park. The clash on the wings should be worth watching, as young Northlander Bryce Heem has the size, speed and skill to match the Wellington flyers and David Holwell, who still controls play efficiently, will want to play well against his other province just for auld lang syne.

WE THINK: While Northland has shown a lot of attacking flair this year, we think they might battle to gain parity up front this week. If that's the case expect Wellington to do much the same as they did against Waikato and slowly pull away; our call for a final margin is about 10-15 points.

TEAMS:

Wellington: 1. John Schwalger, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Neemia Tialata, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Mark Reddish, 6. Victor Vito, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Rodney So'oialo (captain), 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. Faifili Levave, 19. Dean Brunsdon, 20. Ruki Tipuna, 21. Lima Sopoaga, 22. Alipate Leiua.

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. Rhyan Caine, 10. David Holwell, 11. Bryce Heem, 12. Aaron Bancroft, 13. Jared Payne (captain), 14. Rene Ranger, 15. Lachie Munro.

Reserves: 16. Tim Dow, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Paea Fa'anunu, 19. Roy Griffin, 20. Luke Hamilton, 21. Aiden Dewes, 22. Iwi Hauraki.

REFEREE: Richard Kelly