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ITM Cup Preview: Auckland v Tasman

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Friday, October 22, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Eden Park, Auckland, Sunday October 24, 14.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 2 – Auckland 1, Tasman 1.

LAST TIME: September 27, 2009 (Nelson) – Tasman 12-8 Auckland.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: August 6, 2006 – Auckland 46-6 Tasman.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Auckland $1.12, Tasman $5.75.

WALKING WOUNDED: Auckland is missing four players on All Black duty; John Afoa, Isaia Toeava, Joe Rokocoko and Daniel Braid are all out of last week’s lineup. Tasman loses one to the national side, Ben Franks. Adding to the front row woes is the absence of hooker Vernon Fredericks with an AC shoulder injury, prop Sam Prattley has a disc problem while fellow prop Hamish Cochrane has a back injury.

FORM:

PAST FIVE Auckland:
Round 8: Beat Manawatu 32-6
Round 9: Lost to Southland 6-9 (RS)
Round 10: Drew with Hawke’s Bay 34-34
Round 11: Beat Counties-Manukau 37-13
Round 12: Beat Otago 39-11

PAST FIVE Tasman:
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
Round 12: Beat Northland 34-29

While Auckland may not have been getting the press that Waikato and Canterbury have gathered, the Queen City men have been gathering points very consistently and have found some attacking punch after a few weeks of fine weather. They go into this game poised to make a charge for a home semi-final and will know exactly what is required on Friday evening after the Waikato – Canterbury match. Unless Waikato has grabbed all five points, Auckland holds its fate in ots own hands at kick-off. Tasman has picked up a couple of narrow wins in the last two matches although Northland was most unhappy with a poor TMO call allowed Tasman to turn the tide last week; had Tasman blown that chance they might have run out of puff but instead managed to kick on and secure the five points.

WHO'S HOT: Gareth Anscombe has been making a good fist of first-five for Auckland in recent weeks and has a sound running game to go with an educated boot. Speedy Dave Thomas is proving to be one of the two best players in the competition at recovering high kicks; he’s keeping good company, as the other is David Holwell. Kurtis Haiu and Tom McCartney, two well-seasoned players, will be asked to provide a lot of the grunt in the Auckland engine room. Chris Jack has toiled long and hard for Tasman this season, and has a few tries to go with the bangs and bruises. Glen Gregory has put in another quality year, while the experiment with Robbie Malneek at first-five has worked well in the last couple of matches. His repalcement at fullback, Tom Marshall, has doe a good job in the No 15 jersey.

WE THINK: This should be the easiest match of the week to call, and there won’t be any surprise when we say that Auckland should win and win well. The margin won’t matter as long as the side does enough to claim that home semi-final spot which, we believe, will be there for them at kickoff.

TEAMS:

Auckland: 1.Tevita Mailau, 2. Tom McCartney 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4. Kurtis Haiu, 5. Andrew van der Heijden, 6. Chris Lowrey, 7. Sean Polwart, 8. Peter Saili, 9. Toby Morland, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 11. Atieli Pakalani, 12. Benson Stanley (captain), 13. Ben Atiga/Winston Stanley, 14. Dave Thomas, 15. Brent Ward.

Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Angus Ta'avao, 18. Liaki Moli, 19. Onosai'i Auva'a, 20.Auvasa Faleali'i, 21. Matt Berquist, 22. Winston Stanley.