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Match preview: Canterbury vs. Auckland

Photosport

Thursday, October 6, 2005    allblacks.com    Photosport

But another deadlock could be broken when Canterbury hosts Auckland.

This match will be the 33rd between the two traditional rivals in the history of the Air New Zealand NPC, with the wins having been shared, 16 apiece.

Canterbury surrendered hopes of a first unbeaten NPC campaign since 1983 when it lost 24–19 to Otago at Carisbrook last weekend, but the side that entertains Auckland will be bolstered by the returns of Mose Tuiali’i (from suspension) and Daniel Carter. Carter will make his return after last having played during the All Blacks’ 30–13 win over Australia in Sydney on 13 August.

The last time Canterbury lost two Air New Zealand NPC matches in succession was in 2003 when a loss at Carisbrook was followed a week later by a further defeat at Invercargill. Later that same year, Canterbury also dropped the Ranfurly Shield at home to Auckland, losing a high-scoring encounter 40–31.

Defence has been a strong point for Canterbury thus far in the Air New Zealand NPC and while Otago became the first side to crack four tries against the reigning title holders, it was also significant that Canterbury was held scoreless in the second spell. With just 14 tries conceded, only Otago and North Harbour boast better defensive records than Canterbury.

Although Auckland has let in 10 more tries than its Shield opponent, the 32 tries it has scored thus far are the most of any side in the division and represent a total 11 tries higher than that achieved thus far by Canterbury.

Auckland has won its last two Air New Zealand NPC matches in Christchurch, having won 29–23 in a semifinal at Jade Stadium a year before it won the Shield off Canterbury.

Auckland and the Shield

With the province’s record nine-year and 61-defence tenure between 1985 and 1993 not too distant a memory; it’s easy to assume that Auckland are the masters of Ranfurly Shield rugby. In fact, their overall record still stands decisively in the negative, in terms of wins and losses, when it comes to challenging for the Shield. All up, Auckland has been the challenging side 34 times, winning 13 and losing 20. They drew with defender Hawke’s Bay in 1968.

In terms of challenges in Christchurch, the record includes successful challenges in 1971 (20–16), 1985 (28–23), 1995 (35–0) and 2003 (40–31) and failed bids in 1932 (14–0), 1955 (12–6), 1983 (31–9) and 2001 (38–10).

Auckland holds the overall edge against Canterbury when challenges and successful defences are combined with Auckland having won 12 of these matches while losing six and drawing one. Auckland’s hit rate in terms of its Shield challenges has improved dramatically in the modern era. The inaugural holders of the Shield won just two of its 10 Shield challenges prior to 1946, and just two of eight between 1946 and 1960.

In 1960, Fred Allen’s team first won, and then successfully defended, the trophy on 25 occasions, which was a record bettered only by the 1985-93 side. Since the side coached by Allen won the trophy in 1960, Auckland has challenged for the trophy on a further 13 occasions, winning eight, which includes four successes in Christchurch.

Teams

Canterbury: Ben Blair, Scott Hamilton, Casey Laulala, Aaron Mauger, Caleb Ralph, Daniel Carter, Andrew Ellis, Mose Tuiali'i, Richie McCaw, Reuben Thorne (captain), Kevin O'Neill, Chris Jack, Campbell Johnstone, Corey Flynn, Greg Somerville.
Reserves: Ti'i Paulo, Wyatt Crockett, Hayden Hopgood, Johnny Leo'o, Jamie Nutbrown, Vilimoni Delasau, Steven Yates.

Auckland: Brent Ward, Doug Howlett, Ben Atiga, Sam Tuitupou, Tony Koonwaiyou, Tasesa Lavea, Steve Devine, Bradley Mika, Daniel Braid, Justin Collins (captain), Ali Williams, Angus Macdonald, John Afoa, Derren Witcombe, Saimone Taumoepeau.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Nick White, Kurtis Haiu, Jerome Kaino, Taniela Moa, Isa Nacewa, Mils Muliaina.

Canterbury v Auckland, Christchurch (Ranfurly Shield)
Kick-off: Saturday at 7.35pm
Referee: Paul Honiss (Waikato)
TAB odds: Canterbury $1.75, Auckland $2