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ITM Cup Preview: Northland v Southland

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Friday, September 3, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Toll Stadium, Whangarei, Saturday September 4, 17.30 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 32 – Northland 16, Southland 15, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: September 3, 2009 (Invercargill) – Southland 15-15 Northland.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: October 1, 2006 – Northland 19-12 Southland.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Northland $2.15, Southland $1.65.

WALKING WOUNDED: Mikaele Tuu'u and Bryce Heem are the only non-starters from last week in the Northland side; Heem is carrying a niggle while Tuu'u has been switched with Tim Dow. Southland has given Jason Rutledge a spell, while Dion Bates and James Paterson return from lengthy breaks out of the side. The Stags' increasing depth can be seen on the bench where they have named a good lineup, especially strong in the forwards.

FORM:

PAST FIVE:
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
Round 5: Lost to Wellington 28-31

PAST FIVE:
Southland
Round 1: Beat Manawatu 37-23
Round 2: Beat Otago 16-12 (RS)
Round 3: Beat Counties-Manukau 13-9 (RS)
Round 4: Beat Hawke's Bay 23-20
Round 5: Beat Tasman 21-16

Northland gave it plenty against Wellington last weekend and led most of the way, only falling behind with five minutes to run. There was a late chance to secure a draw, which would have been a fair result, but Lachie Munro's kick sailed just wide. Northland really attacked Wellington at any opportunity and scored three good tries as a result, but just ran out of gas a few minutes too soon. At Blenheim Southland did what it has been doing all year, limiting its own errors and cashing in on chances it gets from the opposition. Last week there were not many try-scoring chances although both teams did play a fair bit of rugby, but Robbie Robinson had eight chances to kick penalty goals and landed seven. That says something about the territorial superiority the Stags forwards gained, but it was hard work against a committed Tasman team.

WHO'S HOT: Dean Budd has been in fine form on the Northland flank and his two tries last week were reward for diligent following-up and good skills near the line. The scrum was a lot better than a week earlier but this time the lineout went into meltdown, which needs to be fixed against the big Southland pack. Rhyan Caine is always steady at halfback and has an eye for a gap, while Lachie Munro, despite that late miss, is one of the best kickers in the ITM Cup and by some distance the leading scorer to date. Southland had a lot to thank its forwards for and Jamie Mackintosh, John Hardie and Elliott Dixon were all prominent, especially with some tough tackling around the fringes. Robinson has shaken a bad start and has landed 12 of his last 13 goal attempts, so penalties are now proving a good source of points for the Stags.

WE THINK: For the third week running Northland comes up against a tough pack and this time it's backed by a really tight defence. Much as Northland appeals due to the style of rugby the team is playing, we can't go past the unbeaten leaders in this one and pick the Stags by five to ten points.

TEAMS:

Northland: 1. Matt Wallis, 2. Tim Dow, 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. Iwi Hauraki Bryce Heem, 12. Aaron Bancroft, 13. Jared Payne (captain), 14. Rene Ranger, 15. Lachie Munro.

Reserves: 16. Mikaele Tuu'u, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Roy Griffin, 19. Cameron Goodhue, 20. Luke Hamilton, 21. Aiden Dewes, 22. Mateo Malupo.

Southland: 1. Jamie Mackintosh (captain), 2. Bayden Mitchell, 3. Chris King, 4. Josh Bekhuis, 5. Joe Tuineau, 6. Dion Bates, 7. Tim Boys, 8. Kane Thompson, 9. Scott Cowan, 10. Robbie Robinson, 11. James Paterson, 12. Matt Saunders, 13. Kendrick Lynn, 14. Tony Koonwaiyou, 15. Glen Horton.

Reserves: 16. Jason Rutledge, 17. Michael Peterson, 18. Elliot Dixon, 19. John Hardie, 20. Sonny Rangitohereri, 21. Seminar Manu, 22. Mark Wells.

REFEREE: Chris Pollock