ITM Cup Preview: Auckland v Wellington

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Friday, September 10, 2010    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday September 11, 18.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 170 – Auckland 89, Wellington 78, drawn 3.
LAST TIME: August 22, 2009 (Wellington) – Wellington 16-15 Auckland.

September 20, 2008 – Auckland 0-27 Wellington.

Auckland has made three optional changes, giving starts to Ash Dixon, Adam Kleeberger and Winston Stanley – all three of whom looked good last week when they came on. Not surprisingly Wellington has made wholesale changes, with Dane Coles and Neemia Tialata returning to the front row, Hosea Gear has recovered from a hamstring strain, the Lions have lost Mark Reddish to concussion and Victor Vito to the All Blacks, and Andre Bell has made a couple of other optional changes.


Round 2: Lost to Waikato 18-21
Round 3: Beat Bay of Plenty 11-6
Round 4: Beat Northland 26-13
Round 5: Lost to Canterbury 16-35
Round 6: Beat Taranaki 27-13


Round 2: Lost to Counties-Manukau 25-31
Round 3: Beat Otago 35-22
Round 4: Beat Waikato 26-14
Round 5: Beat Northland 31-28
Round 6: Lost to Manawatu 24-36

Although Auckland won last weekend, the manner of victory will ensure Mark Anscombe drills his troops hard this week. There were far too many errors, particularly in the first spell, and only equal ineptitude from Taranaki allowed Auckland to turn 6-3 ahead. But the second half saw Auckland take most of its chances and the victory was as decisive on the scoreboard as on the field. Wellington got what it deserved at Palmerston North, as the Lions were untidy for much of the game and undone by Manawatu’s superior commitment in the tight. Some late tries gave them a sniff but justice was done in the end when Manawatu scored off an interception, taking the margin out to 12 points and denying Wellington a consolation point.

Auckland had no problems in the scrum last week and the front row, led by Charlie Faumuina, was strong all day. The lineouts were different, but those problems should be reasonably easy to fix. Matt Berquist and his deadly boot (82 percent on the season) blew the final margin out as he landed six from eight, but Auckland's day was probably best summed up by the up-and-down form of Atieli Pakalani; when he was good he was dangerous but he had too many ordinary moments to be happy with his game. The Wellington forwards got on Vinny Munro's wrong side at the breakdown in Palmerston North and Scott Fuglistaller, who otherwise worked hard, got ten in the bin after one too many infringements. Alby Mathewson was, by some margin, Wellington's best player but he couldn’t do it all on his own. Sean Treeby, who is also having a good year, was dangerous as well and looked creative when given half a chance.

Wellington may have scored more heavily to date but we doubt they'll get much room from the tough Auckland defence in this one, and therefore the game will be won by whoever does the little things better. We say that team will be Auckland and, aided by far superior goal-kicking, they should get up by 10 points.


1. Tevita Mailau, 2. Ash Dixon, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4. Liaki Moli, 5. Andrew van der Heijden, 6. Adam Kleeberger, 7. Daniel Braid (captain), 8. Chris Lowery, 9. Toby Morland, 10. Matt Berquist, 11. Bryce Heem, 12. Jamie Helleur, 13. Winston Stanley, 14. Atieli Pakalani, 15. Brent Ward.
Reserves: 16. Tom McCartney, 17. Angus Ta'avao, 18. Kurtis Haiu, 19. Peter Saili, 20. Auvasa Faleali’i, 21. Gareth Anscombe, 22. Dave Thomas.

1. John Schwalger, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Neemia Tialata, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Api Naikatini, 6. Faifili Levave, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Rodney So'oialo (captain), 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Hosea Gear, 12. Charlie Ngatai, 13. Sean Treeby, 14. Julian Savea, 15. Apoua Stewart.
Reserves: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Jacob Ellison, 18. Nick Passi, 19. Dean Brunsdon, 20. Ruki Tipuna, 21. Fa'atonu Fili, 22. Tajhon Mailata.

Chris Pollock