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ITM Cup Preview: Otago v Northland

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Saturday, September 18, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Carisbrook, Dunedin, Sunday September 19, 14.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 39 – Otago 30, Northland 7, drawn 2.

LAST TIME: August 28, 2009 (Whangarei) – Northland 7-29 Otago.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: August 16, 2008 – Otago 23-18 Northland.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Otago $2.35, Northland $1.55.

WALKING WOUNDED: Liam Coltman was ruled out of the Otago side with a shoulder problem, and two optional changes were also made. All three promoted players were in the reserves last week. Northland has made only one change from the team that ran Canterbury so close, with the predictable reintroduction of Rene Ranger into the backline. There has been a shuffle, though, as Ranger will play at centre, Lachie Munro on the wing and Jared Payne at fullback.

FORM:

PAST FIVE Otago:
Round 3: Lost to Wellington 22-35
Round 4: Lost to North Harbour 23-35
Round 5: Lost to Taranaki 15-25
Round 6: Beat Hawke’s Bay 17-16
Round 7: Beat Tasman 13-11

PAST FIVE Northland:
Round 3: Beat Manawatu 77-8
Round 4: Lost to Auckland 13-26
Round 5: Lost to Wellington 28-31
Round 6: Beat Southland 33-22
Round 7: Lost to Canterbury 23-27

Otago ground out another win at Nelson last week, but could be thankful Tasman was dreadfully inept. Both sides made a ton of handling errors – they were both in double figures by halftime – and some poor Tasman finishing let Otago off the hook time and again. Then, as if they suddenly realised the game was still there for the taking, the Dark Blues got going and muscled over for a late try which, backed by good goal-kicking, proved enough. Northland gave Canterbury a big start by letting Sonny Bill Williams do as he pleased for 20 minutes, but then got stuck in and came within inches – not once but two or three times - of a first win over Canterbury in a decade. Eventually they came up four points short and skipper Jared Payne was left lamenting a weak opening quarter; the other 60 minutes were good and Northland even had more of the game after halftime.

WHO'S HOT: The big grunters could take most of the credit for Otago last week; after siing that any time the ball was given some air it tended to be dropped, they tucked it up and blasted ahead a yard at a time to good effect. Props Kees Meeuws and Halani Aulika were regular ball-carriers, with the veteran playing a prominent part in the new man’s try. Glenn Dickson had three kicking chances and took them all, so his right boot also played a big part in Otago’s win. Northland veteran Bronson Murray finally scored his first championship try last week and clearly enjoyed it, but moments later he was back at the coal-face doing what he does best. Rhyan Caine is playing some good rugby at halfback for Northland, varying his play nicely and calling the shots accurately, while Lachie Munro became the season’s first centurion after another good kicking day; he currently has 104 points in 2010 and there look to be plenty more on the way.

WE THINK: Although Northland has not won at Carisbrook since 1979, this year should be the one to see that drought broken. Otago has ground out two ugly wins in the last two weeks against other teams mired in the lower end of the competition but Northland is footing it with the big boys this year and should win by 10-15 points.

TEAMS:

Otago: 1. Kees Meeuws, 2. Wyatt McKay, 3. Halani Aulika, 4. Josh Townsend, 5. Hayden Triggs, 6. Brad Cameron, 7. Alando Soakai (captain), 8. Adam Thomson, 9. Sean Romans, 10. Glenn Dickson, 11. Ryan Shortland, 12. Andrew Parata, 13. Josh Tatupu, 14. Joe Hill, 15. Ben Smith.

Reserves: 16. Peter Mirrielees, 17. Sam Hibbard, 18. Hoani Matenga, 19. Charlie O’Connell, 20. Johnny Legg, 21. Hayden Parker, 22. Chris Small.

Northland: 1. Bronson Murray, 2. Tim Dow, 3. Matt Wallis, 4. Pat O’Connor, 5. Mark Burman, 6. Dean Budd, 7. Dan Pryor, 8. Cameron Eyre, 9. Rhyan Caine, 10. David Holwell, 11. Lachie Munro, 12. Aiden Dewes, 13. Rene Ranger, 14. Mateo Malupo, 15. Jared Payne (captain).

Reserves: 16. Mikaele Tuu’u, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Roy Griffin, 19. Cameron Goodhue, 20. Luke Hamilton, 21. Adam Clarke, 22. Iwi Hauraki.

REFEREE: Kane McBride