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ITM Cup Preview: Wellington v Bay of Plenty

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Westpac Stadium, Wellington, Thursday September 30, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 32 – Wellington 27, Bay of Plenty 3, drawn 2.

LAST TIME: August 15, 2009 (Rotorua) – Bay of Plenty 21-17 Wellington.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: August 30, 2008 – Wellington 48-12 Bay of Plenty.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Wellington $1.40, Bay of Plenty $2.75.

WALKING WOUNDED: Wellington is without its two gun wingers, as Hosea Gear and Julian Savea are both away with the Commomwealth Games squad. Neemia Tialata is still bothered by an ankle problem, which means last week's pack is unchanged. Toby Arnold is away with the Commonwealth Games team, which means Ben Smith turns out at fullback for the Bay, while Brett Mather moves to the wing in place of Jason Hona.

FORM:

PAST FIVE Wellington:
Round 5: Beat Northland 31-28
Round 6: Lost to Manawatu 24-36
Round 7: Lost to Auckland 15-21
Round 8: Beat Hawke's Bay 17-13
Round 9: Lost to Canterbury 30-37

PAST FIVE Bay of Plenty:
Round 5: Beat North Harbour 39-29
Round 6: Lost to Canterbury 9-28
Round 7: Beat Manawatu 41-13
Round 8: Beat Counties-Manukau 24-21
Round 9: Beat Otago 40-30

Wellington has stumbled a bit in recent weeks, even if it did contribute significantly to an excellent match at Christchurch. Neither of its last two wins has been particularly convincing – in fact the Lions really haven't put together a full 80-minute performance all season – and that needs to be turned around smartly as the playoff race is becoming increasingly congested. Bay of Plenty took 14 of a possible 15 points from its three-match home stand but owes its high place on the table to an ability to beat up low-ranked sides; as yet the Steamers have not won against any of the teams above them on the ladder. If they are harbouring top four ambitions, that needs to change.

WHO'S HOT: Alby Mathewson is the sparkplug for Wellington at present and most of the good things that happen for the Lions have the halfback in the middle of them. His try at Christchurch was a real piece of opportunism and skill. Apoua Stewart is sure to be tested by the Bay kicking game but he will be keen to shine against his old team, while Jermey Thrush will have a battle against the aggressive Steamers locks at the lineout. John Pareanga is in the form of his career at the moment, relishing regular playing time in the Bay front row, and his lineout work is of high quality. Tanerau Latimer has been sound all year, making a lot of tackles and linking well. Lelia Masaga is also having his best year for some time and is dangerous whenever he gets a sniff of the goal-line.

WE THINK: This should be a very even contest that may be decided by how well the Bay covers the Wellington kick returns. The Lions normally find running room and score a lot of points from deep, which we think is their best weapon. They're also very hard to beat at home, a factor that led us to call it for Wellington by five points

TEAMS:

Wellington: 1. John Schwalger, 2. Dane Coles, 3. David Te Moana, 4. Jeremy Thrush (captain), 5. Nick Passi, 6. Api Naikatini, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Faifili Levave, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Alipate Leiua, 12. Charlie Ngatai, 13. Shaun Treeby, 14. Buxton Popoali'i, 15. Apoua Stewart.

Reserves: 16. Ged Robinson, 17. Reg Goodes, 18. Brad Shields, 19. Dean Brunsdon, 20. Ruki Tipuna, 21. Tajhon Mailata, 22. Fa'atonu Fili.

Bay of Plenty: 1. Josh Hohneck, 2. John Pareanga, 3. Tristan Moran, 4. Luke Andrews, 5. Culum Retallick, 6. Luke Braid, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 8. Colin Bourke (captain), 9. Taniela Moa, 10. Mike Delany, 11. Brett Mather, 12. Phil Burleigh, 13. Corey Aporo, 14. Lelia Masaga, 15. Ben W Smith.

Reserves: 16. Daniel Perrin, 17. Joe Savage, 18. Aiden Kuka, 19. Solomon King, 20. Chad Tuoro, 21. Daniel Waenga, 22. Grant McQuoid.

REFEREE: Keith Brown