ITM Cup Preview: Manawatu v Tasman

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Saturday, October 2, 2010    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 4 – Manawatu 0, Tasman 4.

September 5, 2009 (Nelson) – Tasman 34-15 Manawatu.

October 4, 2008 – Manawatu 7-36 Tasman.

Manawatu has lost Lote Raikabula and Tomasi Cama to the Commonwealth Games squad but the news is better in other areas, where two key players, Grant Polson (injury) and Aaron Cruden (All Black duty) return. Tasman's loose forwards are copping it at present; Jonathon Poff has been bothered by a shoulder and neck problem for some time but will play and Joe Wheeler had an operation on a long-standing shoulder problem this week. Sam Prattley returns in the front row but halfback Steve Alfeld won't start this week after hobbling off early at Hamilton with an ankle problem. Despite wanting to play, Ben Franks – who has not had a lot of rugby in recent months – is still on compulsory All Black stand-down.


PAST FIVE Manawatu:

Round 5: Lost to Hawke's Bay 9-17
Round 6: Beat Wellington 36-24
Round 7: Lost to Bay of Plenty 13-41
Round 8: Lost to Auckland 6-32
Round 9: Lost to North Harbour 30-44


Round 5: Lost to Southland 16-21
Round 6: Lost to Counties-Manukau 3-23
Round 7: Lost to Otago 11-13
Round 8: Lost to North Harbour 21-28
Round 9: Lost to Waikato 15-33

With both sides battling away at the foot of the table, this is perhaps the first game of the competition where you know nothing that can be done here will affect the playoff race. Manawatu has had its moments in the last few matches, even if the opposition has eventually run up a score, but not enough of them to cover for a defence that still leaks badly. Some of the tries North Harbour scored last week would have been soft at First XV level. Tasman has the other problem; the Makos simply cannot score enough points to win. There's plenty of talent in the side but for whatever reason they just can't get it together for long periods. Last week the forwards were battered into submission by Waikato but Tasman's defence hung tough, only allowing three tries despite spending more than quarter of the game penned in its own 22

With one in between the sides in the last five weeks, few players are hot but several are consistently solid. One such is Manawatu lock Michael Fitzgerald, who can be relied on for an 80-minute effort. Hooker Rob Foreman also gives it everything each week, and halfback Aaron Smith has possibly been the Turbos' best player this year. Tasman would put Glen Gregory, a workhorse lock, up as a counter in the tight and Joseph Wheeler is making a good fist of No 8 after moving to the back of the scrum a few weeks back. Kade Poki, although without the attacking chances he would like, is still playing good rugby at centre and his experience is very handy when it’s time to man the barricades.

How do you pick this sort of game? Manawatu normally reserves its worst performance of the year for Tasman but this time, in front of a staunch band of fans, the Turbos might claim a first win over the new union. Expect a high-scoring encounter if the weather behaves, and maybe a Manawatu win by five to ten points.


1. Grant Polson (captain), 2. Rob Foreman, 3. Ma'afu Fia, 4. Michael Fitzgerald, 5. Fraser Stone, 6. James Oliver, 7. Callum Gibbins, 8. Hamish Gosling, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Aaron Cruden, 11. Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 12. Frank Bryant, 13. Hadleigh Parkes, 14. Shannon Paku, 15. Craig Clare.

Reserves: 16. Sean O'Connor, 17. Donal McNamara, 18. Reece Robinson, 19. Bertus Mulder, 20. Isaac Thompson, 21. Lewis Marshall, 22. Casey Stone.

1. Sam Prattlet, 2. Francis Smith, 3. Fai Mika, 4. Anthony Elisala, 5. Chris Jack (captain), 6. Glen Gregory, 7. Jonathon Poff, 8. Poutasi Luafutu, 9. Kaide Whiting, 10. James Marshall, 11. James Kamana, 12. Jack Umaga, 13. Kade Poki, 14. Robbie Malneek, 15. Tom Marshall.

Reserves: 16. Vernon Fredericks, 17. Craig Moore, 18. Ben Coman, 19. Tevita Kolomatangi, 20. Daniel Hawkins, 21. Blair Cook, 22. Afeleki Pelenise.

Matt Stanish