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ITM Cup Preview: Bay of Plenty v North Harbour

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

VENUE & TIME: Rotorua International Stadium, Sunday August 29, 16.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 25 – Bay of Plenty 11, North Harbour 14.

LAST TIME: April 28, 2009 (Albany) – North Harbour 28-7 Bay of Plenty.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 16, 2005 – Bay of Plenty 8-41 North Harbour.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Bay of Plenty $1.55, North Harbour $2.35

WALKING WOUNDED: Bay of Plenty got the best possible news this week – Mike Delany has returned to fill the troublesome first-five spot and offer a decent goal-kicking option to a team that has struggled to reach 50 percent off the tee so far. A more surprising chance sees Culum Retallick benched for Aiden Kuka. North Harbour has made several changes but all were optional. Anthony Boric returns from his All Black stint while Tom Chamberlain starts at blindside. The backs have been shuffled, with Luke McAlister moving into first-five, Brendon Watt to second and the wings swapped. Ben Botica, who is kicking at 90 percent this year, cannot find a place in the 22.

FORM:

SEASON TO DATE:
Bay of Plenty
Round 1: Lost to Waikato 10-13
Round 2: Beat Hawke's Bay 30-11
Round 3: Lost to Auckland 6-11
Round 4: Lost to Taranaki 15-24

SEASON TO DATE:
North Harbour
Round 1: Lost to Auckland 14-36
Round 2: Beat Northland 25-24
Round 3: Lost to Canterbury 22-44
Round 4: Beat Otago 35-23

Bay of Plenty made hard work of a winnable match against Taranaki last week; the defence did its thing in the second spell but attacking plays fell over one after another and enough chances to win the game twice were wasted. By the end the Bay was one and three, while frustrated skipper Colin Bourke looked ready to blow his stack in the shed afterwards. At Albany on Thursday night North Harbour heard all about life, the universe and a lack of skill at halftime from Craig Dowd, and the message obviously sunk in. Turning 9-23 behind, Harbour put 26 unanswered points on Otago and took a surprisingly comfortable win to even their record at two and two, but neither side has reached anything like peak form so far.

WHO'S HOT: Bay of Plenty dominated possession and territory last week thanks to its hard-working pack in which Luke Andrews, Tanerau Latimer and Bourke gave their usual good performances. But the backs loused things up again and again, taking poor options or making errors just when composure was necessary. They did fashion one nice try to Ben Smith, but that was too little too late. North Harbour won mainly thanks to precision kicking from Ben Botica (six from six) and Luke McAlister (three from four), who combined for 25 points on the night. Loose forward Malakai Ravulo, brought into the run-on XV to stiffen the defence, scored two tries and did his work around the field, but those first-half errors would have been on the coaches' minds this week at training.

WE THINK: This is a tough match to call, especially as neither side has really got its attack going yet. However we're going to call it for the Bay, whose tough defence should keep a limited Harbour attack under control and the Steamers should be able to post the tries that will get them up by five to ten points.

TEAMS:

Bay of Plenty: 1. Josh Hohneck, 2. John Pareanga, 3. James McGougan or Joe Savage, 4. Luke Andrews, 5. Aiden Kuka, 6. Luke Braid, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 8. Colin Bourke (captain), 9. Taniela Moa, 10. Mike Delany, 11. Lance MacDonald, 12. Phil Burleigh, 13. Brett Mather, 14. Lelia Masaga, 15. Toby Arnold.

Reserves: 16. Simon Chisholm, 17. Savage or McGougan, 18. Culum Retallick, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Chad Tuoro, 21. Daniel Waenga, 22. Ben W Smith or Jason Hona.

North Harbour: 1. Michael Reid (captain), 2. James Parsons, 3. Ben Afeaki, 4. James King, 5. Anthony Boric, 6. Tom Chamberlain, 7. Malakai Ravulo, 8. Richard Mayhew, 9. Chris Smylie, 10. Luke McAlister, 11. Ken Pisi, 12. Brendon Watt, 13. Jack Tarrant, 14. Alipate Fatafehi, 15. Jack McPhee.

Reserves: 16. Mike Mayhew, 17. Taione Vea, 18. Filo Paulo, 19. Matt Luamanu, 20. Grayson Hart, 21. Mike Harris, 22. Nafi Tuitavake.

REFEREE: Shaun Elliott