Preview: Hawke's Bay v Counties Manukau

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Saturday, August 20, 2011    Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: McLean Park, Napier, Sunday August 21 @ 1635

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 47; Hawke's Bay 25, Counties-Manukau 21, drawn 1.

LAST TIME: October 24, 2010 (Pukekohe) – Counties-Manukau 28-31 Hawke's Bay.

WALKING WOUNDED: Hikawera Elliot limped out of the Bay of Plenty match early with a hamstring complaint but he has been bracketed to start this one. If he fails a fitness test Hikairo Forbes will take over. Counties named exactly the same side that played North Harbour in its press release but one suspects there will be a few changes closer to game time; this apparent selection continuity suggests an error somewhere since the Steelers normally make a few changes forward and shuffle the backs. Both sides are without their Pacific World Cup players; for Counties that means Simon Lemalu, Tasesa Lavea and Taiasina Tuifua are gone and for Hawke's Bay Kahn Fotuali'i, Kane Thompson and three props are now out of the squad. The Magpies also lost Zac Guildford and Israel Dagg back to the All Blacks after impressive and injury-free showings last weekend.

Hawke's Bay:
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)
Round 7: beat Bay of Plenty 32-12 (a)

Round 4: lost to Southland 14-22 (a, RS)
Round 5: lost to Otago 14-30 (a)
Round 6: lost to Waikato 15-22 (h)
Round 7: lost to Auckland 22-25 (a)
Round 8: beat North Harbour 40-32 (h)

Apart from that loss to Tasman, when Hawke's Bay played as if it had one eye on the upcoming Wellington match, the Magpies have been on a roll lately. After giving Wellington a thumping they did the same to Bay of Plenty – in their host's 100th Jubilee match. While the Bay of Plenty old-timers would not have been happy to see their side get done, they would have found a lot to like in Hawke's Bay's effort. Counties-Manukau finally got the win it has been so close to for the last three weeks, beating North Harbour on Wednesday evening. Although the score was relatively close the Steelers were normally two scores in front through the match and five tries was suitable reward for some enterprising play. Any chance of making the final may have gone in that run of four losses, but Counties is still a side that needs to be watched closely.

WHO'S HOT: Plenty of Hawke's Bay players were hot last week as the team turned on one of its best team efforts of the year. Some of the brightest stars won't be around this week due to international call-ups but there was a lot to like about the Hawke's Bay loose trio, which remains intact. Karl Lowe is now well over his long-term injuries and back to the sort of impressive form he showed for two or three years before that; Trent Boswell-Wakefield is a strong, multi-talented No 6 who contributes well on both attack and defence and Mike Coman is a bruising, skilled No 8 who leads from the front. In a battle of the ITM Cup's two best breakdown teams last week, Hawke's Bay came out miles ahead and these three led the way. Counties will be pleased with the form Mark Selwyn displayed on Wednesday even though the union isn't short of good loose forwards. He impressed with his breakdown work as Counties cleaned up in this area, winning the turnovers 8-0. He didn't do it alone, as Adam Cathcart and Fritz Lee were in there as well and showed, much as Hawke's Bay had done at Rotorua, what a damaging force a united and aggressive loose forward trio can be. Cathcart is developing into a good blindside with a wide range of skills while Lee is the aggressive front man of the trio, offering a physical presence that he backs up with a wide skill set.

WE THINK: Although Hawke's Bay has lost half a team to various test sides there is still depth in the union, and with a place in the final there to be taken, it's going to be hard to call against the Magpies at home. Counties will make it hard on the field, there's no doubt about that, but the locals should be able to get up by one score.


Hawke's Bay: 1. Kas Lealamanua, 2. Hikawera Elliot or Hikairo Forbes, 3. Ben Tameifuna, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Bryn Evans, 6. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 7. Karl Lowe, 8. Mike Coman (capt), 9. Chris Eaton, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 11. Gillies Kaka, 12. Andrew Horrell, 13. Tu Umaga-Marshall, 14. Richard Buckman, 15. Mark Jackman.

Reserves: 16. Danny Logan, 17. Brendon Edmonds, 18. Maselino Paulino, 19. Adam Bradey, 20. Isaac Paewai, 21. Tua Saseve, 22. Sinoti Sinoti, 23. Jody Allen.

Counties-Manukau (as named): 1. Peter Hale, 2. Mark Price (capt), 3. Matt Talaese, 4. Ronald Raaymakers, 5. Chris McLaren, 6. Adam Cathcart, 7. Mark Selwyn, 8. Fritz Lee, 9. August Pulu, 10. James Semple, 11. Sherwin Stowers, 12. Reynold Lee-Lo, 13. Niva Ta'auso, 14. Ahsee Tuala, 15. Tim Nanai-Williams.

Reserves: 16. Suliasi Taufalele, 17. Jeremiah Fatialofa, 18. Jamie Chipman, 19. DJ Forbes, 20. David Bason, 21. Baden Kerr, 22. Bundee Aki, 23. Ihipa Thompson.

REFEREE: Glen Jackson