Preview: Bay of Plenty v Wellington

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Friday, July 29, 2011    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Baypark Stadium, Mt Maunganui, Sunday July 31 @ 1635

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 33; Bay of Plenty 4 wins, Wellington 27, drawn 2.

LAST TIME: September 30, 2010 (Wellington) – Wellington 24-31 Bay of Plenty.

WALKING WOUNDED: There are not many changes in the Bay of Plenty side and those that have been made see guys shuffling between the starting team and the bench. The loose forwards have been juggled, with Luke Braid on the openside and Tanerau Latimer moving to 6, but that can hardly be said to weaken the side. Wellington has made minimal changes, moving guys between the starting lineup and the bench. The only question mark is over Apoua Stewart, whose fitness will be decided closer to kickoff.

Bay of Plenty:
Round 1: beat Counties-Manukau 20-13 (a)
Round 2: beat North Harbour 38-17 (h)
Round 3: beat Waikato 36-8 (h)

Round 1: beat Taranaki 23-5 (a)
Round 2: lost to Auckland 17-21 (h)
Round 3: beat Canterbury 37-28 (h)

Bay of Plenty carried on its fine start with a record championship win over Waikato, scoring four tries to one in a comprehensive midweek rout. The Steamers are doing most things well at present, with the forwards winning good ball for a talented backline that is using it to advantage. There are no real weaknesses across the park and the side has already thrown down a strong challenge to other more favoured sides. Wellington played well midweek against Canterbury after giving up a try in the first 30 seconds; the Lions dominated the middle stages of that match and only a couple of late tries allowed Canterbury to get as close as nine points. Given the freedom to run, the Wellington forwards laid a good platform and the backs cashed in with some slick moves and well-taken tries.

WHO'S HOT: Bay of Plenty skipper Colin Bourke is again showing out and his all-round game is one of the more impressive parts of an impressive team. The multi-talented No 8 is obviously fully recovered from his shoulder injury and back in the sort of form he displayed a year ago. Culum Retallick is a dominant presence in the Bay engine room with his strong set pieces, energetic general play and rugged defence. Daniel Waenga played one of his best games at this level on Tuesday, capping a fine game with some good goal-kicking including a couple of thumping strikes from long range.

Wellington will have been heartened by Victor Vito's performance against Canterbury, when he did a lot of damage with ball in hand and broke the line time and again. No doubt those in high places took a few notes. Jacob Ellison was quoted as saying he had a point to prove to Canterbury, which he did in emphatic style. As well as anchoring a good scrum he made a series of punishing tackles that either jarred the ball loose or killed potentially dangerous movements. After a rough outing against Auckland Julian Savea also had some points to make, and he did just as well. Far busier in the Canterbury match, he carried the ball strongly and was often the man who first broke the advantage line so the rest could make decent inroads into the defence.

WE THINK: This match promises to be one of the best of the competition, with two strong sides that can play hard-to-contain rugby going at each other. It's hard to feel confident about any prediction for Sunday but perhaps the home ground advantage, and knowledge of the tricky wind, may help the Steamers to get home although any margin greater than one score would surprise.


Bay of Plenty: 1. Tristan Moran, 2. John Pareanga, 3. Josh Hohneck, 4. Luke Andrews, 5. Culum Retallick, 6. Tanerau Latimer, 7. Luke Braid, 8. Colin Bourke (capt), 9. Taniela Moa, 10. Chris Noakes, 11. Lance MacDonald, 12. Steve Kefu, 13. Phil Burleigh, 14. Lelia Masaga, 15. Toby Arnold.

Reserves: 16. Daniel Perrin, 17. Pingi Tala'apitanga, 18. Leighton Price, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Jamie Nutbrown, 21. Daniel Waenga, 22. Ben W Smith, 23. Bronson Murray.

Wellington: 1. Jacob Ellison, 2. Dane Coles, 3. Whetu Henry, 4. Jeremy Thrush (capt), 5. Api Naikatini, 6. Faifili Levave, 7. Scott Fuglistaller, 8. Victor Vito, 9. TJ Perenara, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Julian Savea, 12. Michael Hobbs, 13. Alipate Leiua, 14. Jason Woodward or Lote Raikabula, 15. Apoua Stewart or Woodward.

Reserves: 16. Motu Matu'u, 17. Arden David-Perrot, 18. Mark Reddish, 19. Brad Shields, 20. Serge Lilo, 21. Frae Wilson, 22. Michael Lealava'a, 23. Reg Goodes.

REFEREE: Vinny Munro