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ITM Cup Preview: Counties Manukau v Hawke's Bay

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Saturday, October 23, 2010    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Bayer Growers Stadium, Pukekohe, Sunday October 24, 16.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 46 – Counties-Manukau 21, Hawke’s Bay 24, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: October 8, 2009 (Napier) – Hawke’s Bay 54-8 Counties-Manukau.

LAST TIME AT VENUE: September 14, 2008 – Counties-Manukau 14-45 Hawke’s Bay.

MATCH ODDS: NZ TAB (Tuesday): Counties-Manukau $2.05, Hawke’s Bay $1.70.

WALKING WOUNDED: Hawke’s Bay will be delighted not to have Hikawers Elliot this week, as his absence is due to All Black selection.

FORM:

PAST FIVE Counties-Manukau:
Round 8: Lost to Bay of Plenty 21-24
Round 9: Beat Northland 40-27
Round 10: Beat North Harbour 24-23
Round 11: Lost to Auckland 13-37
Round 12: Lost to Canterbury 21-39 (RS)

PAST FIVE Hawke’s Bay:
Round 8: Lost to Wellington 13-17
Round 9: Beat Taranaki 32-24
Round 10: Drew with Auckland 34-34
Round 11: Beat Northland 25-13
Round 12: Beat North Harbour 36-21

After a strong front end of the season, Counties-Manukau has hit the wall in recent weeks and only three fluky tries – two interceptions and a charge-down – prevented them from getting a right battering at Christchurch. Like a number of other sides without the resources of the big unions, the same guys have done duty for the Steelers every week and that workload is beginning to tell, especially up front. Hawke’s Bay has come hoe under a wet sail, albeit too late to rescue their season. Quite a lot of the playoff contenders will be thankful for that slow start, as the Magpies are one of the form teams at present and a dangerous opponent for anyone. They were slow out of the blocks against North Harbour, but again rattled home as they turned an ealry 0-16 deficit into a handsome 36-21 win.

WHO'S HOT: Counties-Manukau need look no further than skipper Jamie Chipman to find a guy whose work has been excellent all season. The captaincy hasn’t been a burden, and he will have impressed a lot of good judges in 2010. Pepa Kolomatangi has been decidedly useful in recent weeks and is a real ball-thief in the loose, where his strength and aggression have been invaluable. Whether this is Tana Umaga’s last game at this level remains to be seen, but his influence on the young players around him has been profound and the benefits will be seen for years to come. Hawke’s Bay farewells two troopers this week; Clint Newland, who has played more than 100 matches in black-and-white, and Jason Shoemark, who has led the side to several outstanding achievements in recent years. Both will be missed next year, but suggestions Michael Johnson was also playing his last match were quickly dispelled by the ageless loosie, who says he’ll see how things go and may well be available again in 2011. All three have been stalwarts for years and Hawke’s Bay has been lucky to have them.

WE THINK: With nothing on this match except bragging rights, it promises to be both entertaining and high-scoring. Both sides like to give the ball air, so it will be a fitting finale to a very good round-robin. And a winner? We like Hawke’s Bay by a few points, even if they have to score something in the 30s to claim the victory.

TEAMS:

Counties-Manukau: 1. Simon Lemalu/Graham Dewes, 2. Ilaisa Maasi, 3. Jono Owen, 4.
Taiasina Tuifua, 5. Jamie Chipman (captain), 6. Ronald Raaymakers, 7. DJ Forbes, 8. Fritz Lee, 9. Samisoni Fisilau, 10. Dean Cummins, 11. Sherwin Stowers, 12. Tana Umaga, 13. Siale Piutau, 14. Ahsee Tuala, 15. Armyn Sanders.

Reserves: 16. Grant Henson, 17. Graham Dewes/Jeremiah Fatialofa, 18. Sikeli Nabou, 19. Mark Selwyn/Pepa Kolomatangi, 20. August Pulu, 21. James Semple, 22. Reynold Lee-Lo.

Hawke’s Bay: 1. Kas Lealamanua, 2. Eugene Smith, 3. Anthony Perenise, 4. Bryn Evans, 5. Ross Kennedy/Brodie Retallick, 6. Michael Johnson, 7. Karl Lowe, 8. Mike Coman, 9. Chris Eaton, 10. Kahn Fotuali'i, 11. Sinoti Sinoti, 12. Ryan McLeod, 13. Jason Shoemark (captain), 14. Richard Buckman, 15. Zac Guildford.

Reserves: 16. Ben Tamiafuna, 17. Clint Newland, 18. Grant Webb, 19. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 20. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 21. Gillies Kaka, 22. Mark Jackman.

REFEREE: Vinny Munro