Preview: Bay of Plenty v Hawke's Bay

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Friday, August 12, 2011    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Rotorua International Stadium, Saturday August 13 @ 1735

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 42; Bay of Plenty 24, Hawke's Bay 17, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: August 6, 2010 (Napier) – Hawke's Bay 11-30 Bay of Plenty.

WALKING WOUNDED: Bay of Plenty has named its strongest side although there is a question over Culum Retallick that will be resolved closer to kick-off. The changes are the usual rotations Sean Horan makes most weeks. Hawke's Bay welcomes regular skipper Mike Coman back after he has missed the last few matches following a neck problem, while Kahn Fotuali'i moves back to halfback and Daniel Kirkpatrick resumes at first-five. The biggest interest, however, is in the man in jersey No 22 – Israel Dagg, who is on the long-awaited comeback trail and returns to first-class rugby this week.

Bay of Plenty:
Round 2: beat North Harbour 38-17 (h)
Round 3: beat Waikato 36-8 (h)
Round 4: beat Wellington 32-0 (h)
Round 5: lost to Northland 23-30 (a)
Round 6: lost to Taranaki 33-39 (a)

Hawke's Bay:
Round 2: beat Southland 29-18 (h)
Round 3: beat Otago 27-13 (h)
Round 4: beat North Harbour 39-10 (a)
Round 5: lost to Tasman 19-21 (h)
Round 6: beat Wellington 40-20 (h)

Bay of Plenty has almost squandered its very good start with two defeats in its last two matches, although three bonus points have lessened the blow. It had its chances against Northland, even with a weakened side, but couldn't recover from a bad start, and two prolific bursts against Taranaki, one in the first half and one at the end, were nullified by a record nine penalty goals kicked by Beauden Barrett. The Steamers threatened at the death, but had left themselves too much to do. Hawke's Bay has gone the other way, making a bad start that has been turned around notwithstanding that loss to Tasman, although that may still hurt. But the performance against Wellington was first-class, where errors were pounced upon and chances finished in the Bay's best 80-minute effort of the year. If the normally reliable goal-kicking had been up to its usual mark Hawke's Bay would have posted a half-century, and that's good going in anyone's book. As it was, the margin was a record for Hawke's Bay over Wellington in championship play.

WHO'S HOT: Luke Andrews may be a veteran in the Bay of Plenty pack these days but remains an invaluable player, who knows what to do and where to be. He provides the glue to a very tight Steamers forward unit. Daniel Waenga didn't have his best outing against Taranaki and missed some important kicks that he'd been getting earlier in the season. He'll be keen to have a big game against his old province and, on his day, can be a match-winner. Lelia Masaga showed in a two-minute burst against Taranaki how deadly his finishing can be, as he followed one try with another straight from the kick-off. More of the same will tax Hawke's Bay's defence on Saturday. Bryn Evans is playing his last few matches in this country before heading overseas and is playing them well; he's an important part of a good lineout and effective round the field. Mike Coman is a real blood-and-guts leader who never asks anyone to do anything he wouldn't do first and, as such, is a man to lead from the front. Saturday's promised physical slog will suit him perfectly. Tu Umaga-Marshall has looked good in his games so far and it will be interesting to see how he handles centre, a position he has not played much at first-class level. If he fires, the speedy Hawke's Bay back three will be real threats.

WE THINK: Whatever happens, this will be the match of the round. Both sides can match strength with strength and neither has too many weaknesses, so attention to detail will really matter. Neither turns the ball over much either, so points will be hard-earned. Perhaps Bay of Plenty gets the nod, narrowly, but will have to work for the whole 80 minutes to get the decision.


Bay of Plenty: 1. Tristan Moran, 2. John Pareanga, 3. Josh Hohneck, 4. Luke Andrews, 5. Culum Retallick or Leon Power, 6. Tanerau Latimer, 7. Luke Braid, 8. Colin Bourke (capt), 9. Jamie Nutbrown, 10. Daniel Waenga, 11. Jason Hona, 12. Steve Kefu, 13. Phil Burleigh, 14. Lelia Masaga, 15. Toby Arnold.

Reserves: 16. Daniel Perrin, 17. Pingi Tala'apitanga or Greg Pleasants-Tate, 18. Power or Leighton Price, 19. Sam Cane, 20. Josh Hall, 21. Chris Noakes, 22. Lance MacDonald, 23. Bronson Murray.

Hawke's Bay: 1. Hikairo Forbes, 2. Hikawera Elliot, 3. Anthony Perenise, 4. Kane Thompson, 5. Bryn Evans, 6. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 7. Karl Lowe, 8. Mike Coman (capt), 9. Kahn Fotuali'i, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 11. Richard Buckman, 12. Andrew Horrell, 13. Tu Umaga-Marshall, 14. Gillies Kaka, 15. Mark Jackman.

Reserves: 16. Logovi'i Mulipola, 17. Kas Lealamanua, 18. Brodie Retallick, 19. Adam Bradey, 20. Isaac Paewai, 21. Tua Saseve, 22. Israel Dagg, 23. Ben Tameifuna.

REFEREE: Nick Briant