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ITM Cup Preview: Tasman v Northland

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Thursday, October 14, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Trafalgar Park, Nelson, Friday October 15, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 4 - Tasman 3, Northland 1.

LAST TIME: October 4, 2009 (Whangarei) - Northland 16-21 Tasman.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: These teams have not previously met at Nelson.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Tasman $1.75, Northland $2.00.

WALKING WOUNDED: Tasman has kept its changes to a minimum; Sam Prattley and James Kamana drop out, with each replacement moving up from the bench a week ago. Northland has done a bit of juggling but nothing major; Dan Pryor returns to the 22 in place of Justin Collins but the remaining 21 squad members were at Napier a week ago.

FORM:

PAST FIVE Tasman:
Round 7: Lost to Otago 11-13
Round 8: Lost to North Harbour 21-28
Round 9: Lost to Waikato 15-33
Round 10: Lost to Manawatu 8-20
Round 11: Beat Bay of Plenty 41-39

PAST FIVE Northland:
Round 7: Lost to Canterbury 23-27
Round 8: Beat Otago 13-8
Round 9: Lost to Counties-Manukau 27-40
Round 10: Lost to Waikato 33-45
Round 11: Lost to Hawke's Bay 13-25

Both sides are gone from playoff contention - that's been the case for a couple of weeks - and now they're looking at second section play in 2011. Tasman's season has continued to muddle along although they did get a surprising win last week, helped by a stream of penalties that had Bay of Plenty skipper Colin Bourke steaming afterwards. Tasman was outscored by three tries to six, but Tom Marshall's boot provided the difference. Northland continued to look a bit flat and was never really in with a shot of winning at Napier, although it did take Hawke's Bay most of the match to put it beyond doubt. That loss has ended any realistic chances of Northland making the top seven - it could still happen but only with a long list of unlikely results - but one suspects the pressure is off this week.

WHO'S HOT: Given that we're talking about teams that can each claim one win in its last five matches, this isn't a particularly long list. Tom Marshall made a fine fist of his first run as Tasman's goal-kicker, landing eight penalty goals and a conversion for 26 points. Ben Franks, of course, made a big difference in the front row and Shane Christie did enough to keep Jonathon Poff on the bench for another week. Northland will ask Bronson Murray to keep the scrum steady - he's had another good season - while Joel McKenty is coming into something like his regular form after a prolonged injury break. Midfielder Aaron Bancroft has been dangerous in recent weeks and, as an old Marlborough player, will no doubt be looking for a big game on Friday.

WE THINK: If Northland is going to arrest its second-half slide, this is the game to do it. Tasman does not have the attacking punch of Northland's recent opponents, and we can see this one going to the visitors by 10 points or so, especially if the Nelson weather behaves itself.

TEAMS:

Tasman: 1. Fai Mika, 2. Vernon Fredericks, 3. Ben Franks, 4. Anthony Elisala, 5. Chris Jack (captain), 6. Glen Gregory, 7. Shane Christie, 8. Poutasi Luafutu, 9. Steve Alfeld, 10. Robbie Malneek, 11. Blair Cook, 12. Jack Umaga, 13. Afeleki Pelenise, 14. Kade Poki, 15. Tom Marshall.

Reserves: 16. Francis Smith, 17. Craig Moore, 18. Ben Coman, 19. Jonathon Poff, 20. Kaide Whiting, 21. James Marshall, 22. Sione Holani.

Northland: 1. Matt Wallis, 2. Mikaele Tuu'u, 3. Bronson Murray, 4. Roy Griffin, 5. Mark Burman, 6. Dean Budd, 7. Joel McKenty, 8. Cameron Eyre, 9. Rhyan Caine, 10. David Holwell, 11. Iwi Hauraki, 12. Aaron Bancroft, 13. Jared Payne (captain), 14. Simon Munro, 15. Lachie Munro.

Reserves: 16. Tim Dow, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Pat O'Connor, 19. Dan Pryor, 20. Luke Hamilton, 21. Adam Clarke, 22. Mateo Malupo.

REFEREE: Vinny Munro