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Match preview: Auckland vs. Waikato

Fotopress

Thursday, September 8, 2005    allblacks.com    Fotopress

Twelve months on, the 14-times NPC champions face Waikato in round five bidding to continue their best start to an NPC campaign since the side won eight in a row 14 years back.

Auckland’s 41-30 win over Bay of Plenty last Sunday exorcised the demons of 2004’s Ranfurly Shield defeat, while also carrying their overall record to four wins from as many starts, which tied the 1999 record as the province’s best start to an NPC campaign since 1991.

Not only was last year’s 11-59 win by Waikato a record margin between the two provinces, it was also the lowest point of a wretched campaign, and a stain the Auckland side will be keen to put behind them.

Waikato’s unbeaten start under Warren Gatland came to a shuddering halt last Friday night against Wellington where the side dropped off too many tackles, but the Mooloo men head to Eden Park boasting a good recent record against Auckland.

Five of Waikato’s eight wins over Auckland in the NPC (from 25 matches) have been achieved since 1997’s Ranfurly Shield-winning effort at Eden Park. Waikato has also won five times at Eden Park in NPC matches (in 1983, 1992, 1993, 1997 and 2003).

Gatland featured as a player in the Waikato teams that won an NPC semifinal at Eden Park in 1992, and then ended Auckland’s record reign of 61 defences of the Ranfurly Shield a year later. His counterpart Pat Lam was a member of the Auckland squad in both years but didn’t take the field in either game.

Waikato will have All Blacks flanker Marty Holah on deck for the match with fellow internationals Sione Lauaki and Byron Kelleher scheduled to return in the next round.

Teams
Auckland: Brent Ward, Isa Nacewa, Ben Atiga, Sam Tuitupou, Tony Koonwaiyou, Tasesa Lavea, Taniela Moa, Jerome Kaino, Daniel Braid, Justin Collins (captain), Kurtis Haiu, Brad Mika, John Afoa, Derren Witcombe, Nick White.
Reserves: Lance Poching, Saimone Taumoepeau, Bryce Williams, Angus MacDonald, Steve Devine, Jamie Helleur, Gavin Williams.

Waikato: Yet to be named.

25 Years ago…

It was arguably the most famous intercept in New Zealand provincial rugby and it happened 25 years prior to this, the 26th match, between Auckland and Waikato. Yet perhaps the most ironic aspect of Arthur Stone’s 50-metre dash to the tryline and Ranfurly Shield immortality on 7 September 1980, was that his try was scored in a non-NPC match. Waikato was a Division Two union in 1980 and became the only team so far from below Division One to win the famous trophy (in the NPC era), after its 7-3 win over Auckland at Eden Park in 1980. Stone went on to win the NPC Division One title with Otago, 11 years later, while the 1980 Waikato side went on to take out the Division Two title, later beating South Canterbury in the promotion-relegation match to advance after five years in the lower grade.

Auckland v Waikato, Auckland
Kick-off: Saturday at 7.35pm
Referee: Gary Wise (Hawke’s Bay)
TAB Odds: Auckland $1.35, Waikato $3.00