Preview: Hawke’s Bay v Bay of Plenty

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Saturday, September 20, 2014    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Saturday 20 September, 2.35pm at McLean Park, Napier
Played: 43, 1922-2013
Bay of Plenty wins: 25 | Hawke's Bay wins: 17 | Draws: 1

Squad update: The Magpies have kept the faith, with the team largely unchanged, and this is no surprise as a Shield challenge is no time to tinker with a squad or rest players.

The impressive Hawke’s Bay backline is one to force fans to stand, with Chris Eaton again partnering with Ihaia West in the halves, while new hero Shannan Chase partners Richard Buckman and Ryan Tongia in the back three.

Brendon O’Connor has been named to start for the team, although there is the small chance that he will step down before the match, with the captain bracketed with Tony Lamborn after the regular openside flanker suffered some signs of concussion last round.

Hooker Nathan Harris will not take part in the challenge with the Steamers number two expected to make his Test debut for the All Blacks in the coming weeks.

Form: The Magpies were imperious against Otago with a 41-0 demolition. Such a mighty score line might have sent the supporters home rapturous, but if they do not back up the feat then such margins will become distant memory.

This game coincides with the 10th anniversary of one of the great moments in Bay of Plenty history when on August 15, way back in 2004, Wayne Ormond’s side defeated Auckland 33-28 at Eden Park. While the province only defended the Log o’ Wood once before losing it to Canterbury, they gained another challenge in 2005 which was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile Hawke’s Bay defend the Shield against an opponent they put the famous trophy up against in 1922, when the Magpies won 17-16.

The hosts are not only hoping to go two-from-two and keep the Shield, but a victory will potentially see them finish the round top of the ITM Cup Championship.

The Steamers have a slight surge, defeating North Harbour 21-14 in week four to earn their first win, while they were competitive in a losing effort, going down 27-12 to Auckland.

Last match: Bay of Plenty 24 Hawke's Bay 20, 25.08.13 in Mt Maunganui (ITMC)

Last Hawke's Bay win: Hawke's Bay 42 Bay of Plenty 41, 21.09.12 in Napier (ITMC)

Biggest Bay of Plenty score: 41 (41-6), 18.06.90 in Hastings (NPC)

Biggest Hawke's Bay score: 65 (65-18), 09.10.94 in Napier (NPC SF)

Biggest differential: Hawke's Bay by 47 (65-18), 09.10.94 in Napier (NPC SF)

Key players: The backline is full of cult figures, but their dashy heroics would not be on display if it were not for the likes of Ash Dixon, Brendon Edmonds and Mark Abbott, who have been busy figures in the Shield holder's tight five.

However West, emerging as one of the most influential first five-eighths in New Zealand rugby, will again look to control the match as his game management continues to grow.

The Steamers have Jono Kitto and Te Aihe Toma guiding proceedings from the axis, while Tino Nemani and Nic Evemy are the strikes weapons out wide.

Yet a pack with some lovely names, from Joe Royal to Tim Bond, Hamish Gosling to Johan Bardoul, will again need to front up as they did against Harbour and the blue and whites, as the Magpies forward unit has been one to watch so far in 2014.