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Preview: Taranaki v Tasman

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Friday, August 12, 2011    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Friday August 12 @ 1935

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 6; Taranaki 5, Tasman 1.

LAST TIME: August 6, 2010 (New Plymouth) – Taranaki 33-11 Tasman.

WALKING WOUNDED: Colin Cooper has made a heap of changes from the side that beat Bay of Plenty, with only two forwards starting in the same jerseys as last week. Craig Clarke is one of those who sits for this one, with Jason Eaton taking over the captaincy. The backline shows changes in the halfback pairing, but the outsides are the same as for that game. Only Beauden Barrett and Shane Cleaver were ruled out because of injury. Tasman's lineup now has a settled look to it and, unlike most of the others in the competition, does not change much from week to week; it shows only two changes from the Canterbury game and one of them is optional. The other comes because flanker Jonathon Poff was ruled out; he is replaced by Tevita Kolomatangi.

FORM:
Taranaki:
Round 2: beat Waikato 30-23 (a)
Round 3: beat Northland 23-16 (a)
Round 4: beat Auckland 39-11 (h)
Round 5: lost to Manawatu 10-15 (a)
Round 6: beat Bay of Plenty 39-33 (h)

Tasman:
Round 2: lost to North Harbour 15-39 (a)
Round 3: lost to Counties-Manukau 23-32 (h)
Round 4: lost to Waikato 6-35 (a)
Round 5: beat Hawke's Bay 21-19 (a)
Round 6: lost to Canterbury 32-36 (h)

If Taranaki needed a lesson about looking more than one game ahead, they got it at Palmerston North last weekend. After a record win over Auckland and with Bay of Plenty looming, Taranaki forgot about beating Manawatu in the middle. They rectified that against Bay of Plenty but did it the hard way, scoring two tries to four but getting booted home by Beauden Barrett, whose nine penalty goals and 29 points set or equalled several union, championship and national records. Tasman collected two bonus points from its last outing against Canterbury but the final score may have been a little flattering, as two of those tries came in the last few minutes. That does indicate that the Makos play the full 80, though, and the side's form over the last two matches has been its best of the season. After a miserable start, the side has bagged six points against good opposition in those games.

WHO'S HOT: Beauden Barrett, although missing this game, was the star for Taranaki last week, kicking ten goals from 11 attempts and every one was needed. His kicking form had been up and down before that but that display said a bit about character as well as talent and work ethic. Andre Taylor may not have been lighting the scoreboard up himself this year but he has been doing a lot to help others onto the scoresheet. Although still young, he is an experienced and talented player. Up front Taranaki is well served by a strong front row, which includes a number of good props. Michael Bent is one of them, a bloke who doesn't get much ink but will collect plenty of pats on the back from team-mates after another crucial contribution in the tight. His counterpart in the Tasman front row is Fai Mika, who is normally only on camera when a breakdown is unravelling or a scrum setting. Now with several seasons of championship football behind him, Mika is one of those strong, sturdy types every team needs. Shawn Begg has taken over at halfback recently and is making a good fist of it, getting his clearances away in good style and choosing his moments to introduce variations. Kieron Fonotia has pretty much owned the centre position in his first season and impresses as a strong runner and equally strong defender. As he has got used to the increased pace his game has tightened up and the Tasman midfield is far harder to penetrate now than it was a few weeks ago, while he is also coming into his own as an attacking weapon.

WE THINK: Taranaki should win this game, and will do so if proper concentration is maintained. Not many sides are scoring heavily against them – Bay of Plenty was an exception to this rule – and the side is more than capable of running up 20 or 30 in any match. Assuming the right mindset it there, Taranaki should collect a 10-point victory.

TEAMS:

Taranaki: 1. Carl Carmichael, 2. Laurence Corlett, 3. Michael Bent, 4. Jason Eaton (capt), 5. James Broadhurst, 6. Ben Souness, 7. Chris Walker, 8. Samuela Vunisa, 9. Brett Goodin, 10. Jack Cameron, 11. Jackson Ormond, 12. Jayden Hayward, 13. George Pisi, 14. Andre Taylor, 15. Kurt Baker.

Reserves: 16. Mahonri Schwalger, 17. Willie Ioane, 18. Craig Clarke, 19. Scott Waldrom, 20. Tyson Keats or Kylem O'Donnell, 21. Isaia Tuifua, 22. Waisake Naholo, 23. Timo Tutavaha.


Tasman: 1. Fai Mika, 2. Quentin MacDonald, 3. Sam Prattley, 4. Filipo Levi, 5. Joe Wheeler, 6. Tevita Kolomatangi, 7. Shane Christie, 8. Mark Bright, 9. Shawn Begg, 10. James Marshall, 11. Mitchell Scott, 12. Andrew Goodman (capt), 13. Kieron Fonotia, 14. Robbie Malneek, 15. Tom Marshall.

Reserves: 16. Francis Smith, 17. Craig Moore, 18. Pablo Heuete, 19. Vernon Fredricks, 20. Steve Alfeld, 21. Jack Umaga, 22. Lucky Mulipola, 23. Hamish Cochrane.



REFEREE: Kane McBride