Preview: Hawke's Bay v Bay of Plenty (RS)

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Friday, September 18, 2015    Getty Images

If bragging rights aren’t enough in an encounter that dates back to 1922, then the incentive of playing for the Ranfurly Shield will surely lift both sides and add some spice to the Saturday afternoon encounter. Hawke’s Bay will be hoping history repeats, while Bay of Plenty will be looking to lift the hallowed shield for just the second time.

Form: Hawke’s Bay looked like one of the form teams of the competition thanks to four straight wins to begin their campaign. Their season started with a comprehensive 39-10 win over Northland at home to retain the Ranfurly Shield, and subsequently defended it against North Harbour, winning 48-32 two weeks later. The shield defences were complemented by away wins against Otago (39-22) and Counties Manukau (35-11).

The Magpies were their own worst enemies against Canterbury last week, conceding a 0-22 half-time deficit to Canterbury. They fought back in the second half but eventually lost 14-29. Craig Philpott will be hoping his side’s error-riddled performance was a one-off as matches against Auckland and Wellington beckon in the next two weeks.

While both sides are comfortably in Championship playoff contention, Bay of Plenty understand the severity of Saturday’s occasion having played one more match than their opponents. While a loss will more than likely see them remain in the top four, the Steamers know consolidating their spot amongst the likes of Hawke’s Bay and Wellington will be at the top of the agenda. 

Bay of Plenty opened their topsy turvy campaign with a 20-11 win over North Harbour, but then went down heavily to Tasman (13-34) the following week. The Steamers showed their resolve five days later by beating Southland 26-10, but were downed 43-10 at home to Waikato in their third match in 10 days. They defeated Counties Manukau 37-26 before being overwhelmed 32-9 by Taranaki last week.

Played: 44

Wins: Hawke’s Bay 18, Bay of Plenty 25

Draws: 1

Last match: Hawke’s Bay 36 Bay of Plenty 17, Napier 2014 (RS)

HAWKE’S BAY: 1.Tolu Fahamokioa, 2.Jorian Tangaere, 3.Brendon Edmonds, 4.Michael Allardice, 5.Junior Waqa, 6.Tony Lamborn, 7.Tom Stanley, 8.Brendan O’Connor (captain), 9.Chris Eaton, 10.Ihaia West, 11.Shannan Chase, 12.Andrew Horrell ,13.Richard Buckman, 14.Ryan Tongia, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16. Ricky Riccitelli, 17.Jason Long, 18.Jarvy Aoake, 19.Sanaila Waqa, 20.Trent Boswell, 21.Ellery Wilson, 22.Billy Rophia, 23.Robbie Fruean.

BAY OF PLENTY: 1.Solomona Sakalia, 2.Nathan Harris, 3.Pingi Tala’apitaga, 4.Keepa Mewett, 5.Culum Retallick (captain), 6.Shahn Eru, 7.Zak Hohneck, 8.Joe Tupe, 9.Te Aihe Toma, 10.Nick Evemy, 11.Elijah Nicolas, 12.Lalakai Foketi, 13.Tino Nemani, 14.Craig Clare, 15.Chase Tiatia.

Reserves: 16.Sabastian Siataga, 17.Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18.Mike Kainga, 19.Troy Callander, 20.Johan Bardoul, 21.Jono Kitto, 22.Caleb Hall, 23. Dan Hollinshead.

Squad Update: Hawke’s Bay remain without Zac Guildford, who is three quarters of the way through his ban for a lifting tackle. The Magpies, though, have the luxury of a largely unchanged squad for Saturday’s game. He’s joined on the sidelines by injured loose forward Gareth Evans. Despite being his side’s top tryscorer with four, Israel Dagg will be looking to atone for a rare off night in Christchurch last week, as will captain Brendon O’Connor at the back of the scrum.

Bay of Plenty have made a number of positional changes, with Chase Tiatia moving to fullback to accommodate Elijah Nicolas’ inclusion on the left wing. The reshuffled backline also includes changes at second five-eighths (Lalakai Foketi), while Tino Nemani regains the No.13 jersey and Craig Clare starts on the right wing. Nick Evemy is given the nod at first five-eighths, with Dan Hollinshead dropping to the bench.

Key Players: Shannan Chase has continued to be a threat in broken play on the wing for Hawke’s Bay, while Robbie Fruean’s physicality should see him play a key role outside confident playmaker Ihaia West. The side’s star power has seen them score 24 tries across five games, the joint highest of the competition alongside Auckland and Wellington.

Tino Nemani has plenty of talent, and with the dangerous Chase Tiatia given plenty of space at fullback there should be plenty of firepower for the Steamers to attack with. Expect plenty of bite from Johan Bardoul when he is called upon in the second half, too.