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ITM Cup Preview: Taranaki v Manawatu

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Friday, October 8, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Saturday October 9, 14.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 82 – Taranaki 53, Manawatu 22, drawn 7.

LAST TIME: August 29, 2009 (Palmerston North) – Manawatu 10-12 Taranaki.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 11, 2008 – Taranaki 14-3 Manawatu.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Taranaki $1.10, Manawatu $6.00.

WALKING WOUNDED: Taranaki has made only one change in the run-on team, with Carl Carmichael getting the start, while 19-year-old lock Blade Thomson takes a seat on the bench for the first time. Manawatu has named the same starting XV that played Tasman but there has been a bit of shuffling on the bench. Most notable is the reintroduction of Johnny Leota, whose season has been ruined by long-term injury.

FORM:

PAST FIVE Taranaki:
Round 6: Lost to Auckland 13-27
Round 7: Beat Counties-Manukau 28-19
Round 8: Beat Canterbury 31-20
Round 9: Lost to Hawke's Bay 24-32
Round 10: Beat Southland 23-6

PAST FIVE Manawatu:
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 10: Beat Tasman 20-8

Wins over the top two sides in the last three matches – bracketing an unexpected loss to Hawke's Bay – have Taranaki sitting nicely in third spot on the ladder and contemplating a nice run home. It may have taken a while for the team to gel but now it's a formidable unit and that win over Southland was achieved in the face of the Stags dominating most of the stats. Taranaki's defence was excellent, many turnovers were forced and the margin was a fair reflection. Manawatu managed to grind out a win over Tasman – it could have been a lot bigger – without playing particularly well for long stages of the match. In the end Aaron Cruden made the difference, playing with the composure and skill expected of an All Black as he led the side to its second win of the year.

WHO'S HOT: Taranaki flanker Jarrad Hoeata's name has suddenly popped into discussions about the All Black team for the end of year tour, as a workhorse flanker who doesn't mind getting his nose bashed in at the coal-face. The talk is he's being looked at as a tight / loose option, even though he has not started at lock since 2007, but he's obviously on somebody's radar. Craig Clarke is the heart of the Taranaki pack and scarcely misses a beat in the engine room, while Jayden Hayward is once again looking like the player who made waves when he first arrived on the scene a couple of years ago. Aaron Cruden has already been mentioned; without him Manawatu would have battled to win last week as he created the first try, scored the second and looked to have made one for Asaeli Tikoirotuma that the TMO – had he been asked – should have awarded. Fraser Stone, the first try-scorer, had a strong game at lock and did his tight work well, while Hadleigh Parkes continues to impress as a promising midfielder.

WE THINK: The respective standings don't lie in this case – Taranaki should win comfortably. If the backline can click into gear a high score is distinctly possible, as Manawatu's midfield is still shaky and Taranaki does a lot of damage up the centre. We like Taranaki to win by 15 or more points, and score at least four tries along the way.

TEAMS:

Taranaki: 1. Carl Carmichael, 2. Mahonri Schwalger, 3. Michael Bent, 4. James Broadhurst, 5. Craig Clarke (captain), 6. Jarrad Hoeata, 7. Chris Walker, 8. Samuela Vunisa, 9. Tyson Keats, 10. Willie Ripia, 11. David Smith, 12. Jayden Hayward, 13. George Pisi, 14. Andre Taylor, 15. Scott Ireland.

Reserves: 16. Timo Tutavaha, 17. Shane Cleaver, 18. Blade Thomson, 19. Johnny Willis, 20. Brett Goodin, 21. Beauden Barrett, 22. Isaia Tuifua.

Manawatu: 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. Doug Tietjens or Bertus Mulder, 20. Karl Bryson, 21. Isaac Thompson, 22. Johnny Leota or Casey Stone.

REFEREE: Bryce Lawrence