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ITM Cup Preview: Taranaki v Counties-Manukau

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Saturday, September 11, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Sunday September 12, 16.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 30 – Taranaki 17, Counties-Manukau 12, drawn 1.

LAST TIME:
August 23, 2009 (Pukekohe) – Taranaki 21-33 Counties-Manukau.

LAST TIME AT VENUE:
September 26, 2008 – Taranaki 13-13 Counties-Manukau.

WALKING WOUNDED:
David Smith's concussion was the main worry for Taranaki coach Colin Cooper this week, as the winger underwent several tests through the week and was passed fit to play. To nobody's surprise Counties-Manukau has named the same team that beat Tasman decisively last weekend.

FORM:


PAST FIVE:

Taranaki
Round 2: Beat Tasman 33-11
Round 3: Beat Waikato 33-23
Round 4: Beat Bay of Plenty 24-15
Round 5: Beat Otago 25-15
Round 6: Lost to Auckland 13-27

PAST FIVE:

Counties-Manukau
Round 2: Beat Wellington 31-25
Round 3: Lost to Southland 9-13 (RS)
Round 4: Beat Manawatu 35-14
Round 5: Lost to Waikato 3-39
Round 6: Beat Tasman 23-3

Taranaki finally paid the penalty for being a 40-minute team last week, when for the first time all season they trailed at the break and then fell further behind as the game wore on. Too many errors and too many kickable penalties were enough for Auckland to push the margin out to 14 points; had the blue-and-whites played better it could have been 30. Counties-Manukau rebounded from that heavy defeat at Hamilton to record a good win over Tasman on Thursday, despite rain that made free-flowing play difficult. The Steelers made few errors and capitalised on those Tasman did commit to draw away steadily over the 80 minutes.

WHO'S HOT:
Michael Bent had a solid day in the Taranaki front row and he has been consistently good all season. Ben Souness is another who seldom plays badly, while Tyson Keats sparked most of whatever good play Taranaki came up with, including several clever plays in the sequence that led to Taranaki’s only try. The young and the old of Counties-Manukau's backline, Tim Nanai-Williams and Tana Umaga, played leading roles against Tasman, with Nanai-Williams dangerous on attack and kicking for goal well while Umaga was busy and solid in midfield. Fritz Lee is probably still under-rated as a hard-working loose forward, but those who have played against him will know better.

WE THINK:
Although Taranaki is favoured at home, Counties-Manukau must be eyeing this up as a winnable match. The teams are actually a very good match for each other statistically, but the more dangerous Steelers three-quarter line has led us to go for the visitors by five to seven points.

TEAMS
:

Taranaki:
1. Shane Cleaver, 2. Timo Tutavaha, 3. Michael Bent, 4. James Broadhurst, 5. Craig Clarke (captain), 6. Jarrad Hoeata, 7. Chris Walker, 8. Ben Souness, 9. Tyson Keats, 10. Willie Ripia, 11. David Smith, 12. Jayden Hayward, 13. George Pisi, 14. Andre Taylor, 15. Kurt Baker.
Reserves: 16. Mahonri Schwalger, 17. Carl Carmichael, 18. Kane Barrett, 19. Samuela Vunisa, 20. Brett Goodin, 21. Beauden Barrett, 22. Isaia Tuifua.

Counties-Manukau:
1. Simon Lemalu, 2. Grant Henson, 3. Jono Owen, 4. Taiasina Tuifua, 5. Jamie Chipman (captain), 6. Ronald Raaymakers, 7. Pepa Kolomatangi, 8. Fritz Lee, 9. August Pulu, 10. James Semple, 11. Sherwin Stowers, 12. Tana Umaga, 13. Siale Piutau, 14. Ahsee Tuala, 15. Tim Nanai-Williams.
Reserves: 16. Mark Price, 17. Graham Dewes, 18. Sikeli Nabou, 19. Mark Selwyn, 20. Samisoni Fisilau, 21. Reynold Lee-Lo, 22. David Raikuna.

REFEREE:
Matt Stanish