Match preview: North Harbour vs. Taranaki


Thursday, September 29, 2005    Fotopress

The odds on Kieran Crowley’s men breaking that hoodoo this weekend have ballooned too, in the aftermath of an expensive excursion to Dunedin that has cost Taranaki the services of lock and skipper Paul Tito and fullback James Hilgendorf.

Taranaki lost 26-10 to Otago, which ended their hopes of a semifinal place while also ruling out Tito, and the Western Force-bound Hilgendorf, who appears unlikely to be seen again in this year’s competition after straining knee ligaments.

“They’re blows but we can’t dwell on them,” Crowley says. “There is still two games to go and their absence will give someone else a chance.”

Prop Gordon Slater takes over as skipper for the North Harbour match

Crowley bemoaned his side’s carelessness at Carisbrook saying it had made too
many mistakes to expect to beat a side like Otago. “We didn’t help ourselves but they were good enough to take advantage. Some of our less experienced players have learnt a few harsh lessons this season and Saturday provided a few more of those.”

“They (North Harbour) were just super against Waikato last Sunday,” Crowley says. “If you allow them to dictate, and give them time and space, they will tear you apart. We are certainly going to have to be a lot more accurate than we were last weekend if we are to give ourselves any chance.”

Taranaki and North Harbour have played 15 games, with Taranaki winning five of the nine encounters. With four wins and a draw so far, North Harbour is up to fourth on the Air New Zealand NPC championship points table and coach Allan Pollock was pleased with the latest success, last week’s 40-21 win against Waikato.

Not only has the five points achieved taken his side to the verge of securing a semifinal position for the first time since 2001, North Harbour’s playing roster will this week get stronger due to the addition of All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock to an already impressive tight five.

North Harbour rates as the second best offensive outfit in the competition (having scored 27 tries), while it also has the third best defensive record, having conceded just 13 tries. Taranaki has also conceded just 13 tries although it has scored 10 less than North Harbour.

74 Retired hurt
Something will happen on Saturday night at North Harbour Stadium that hasn’t occurred since October 1997. Taranaki will play an Air New Zealand NPC Division One match without the on-field presence of lock Paul Tito. The Taranaki skipper broke a bone in his hand during the first half of last weekend’s loss against Otago and while he battled bravely through until the end of the game, his season has been brought to an end by the injury. That halts at 74, his stunning run of consecutive appearances for Taranaki in the NPC. The sequence dates back to a 21-40 loss to Canterbury in the final game of the 1997 campaign, where he took the field as a substitute. Tito started in the other 73 matches of his run.

North Harbour: George Pisi, Vili Waqaseduadua, Anthony Tuitavake, Rua Tipoki (captain), Zar Lawrence, Luke McAlister, Junior Poluleuligaga, Nick Williams, Tom Harding, Anthony Boric, Greg Rawlinson, Marty Veale, Mike Noble, Joe Ward, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Roger Dustow, Adrian Donald, Brent Wilson, Regan Tamihere, Ben Meyer, Joel Nasmith, Andrew Mailei.

Taranaki: Scott Ireland, Brendon Watt, Matt Harvey, Lifeimi Mafi, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Sam Young, Craig Fevre, Chris Masoe, Joe Lawn, John Willis, Jason Eaton, Scott Breman, Gordon Slater (captain), Andrew Hore, Tony Penn.
Reserves: Laurence Corlett, Hamish Mitchell, Brendon McGlashan, Tomasi Soqeta or Sisa Koyamaibole, Andrew Suniula, Todd Feather, James King.

North Harbour v Taranaki, Albany
Kick-off: Saturday at 7.35pm
Referee: Lyndon Bray (Wellington)
TAB odds: North Harbour $1.15, Taranaki $5.00