Preview: ITM Cup final, Canterbury v Auckland
Friday, October 23, 2015 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
Form: Canterbury goes into the final with the more compelling record this season with the one loss, to Taranaki 21-24 in preliminary round play, a result well and truly reversed in last week's semi-final when Taranaki returned to Christchurch only to go down 46-20.
Auckland was beaten at home by Canterbury 21-27 early in the competition while it suffered a second loss, in the Ranfurly Shield challenge with Hawke's Bay 12-17, the lowest scoring game it played all season. But since that loss it ran up three big wins, including a 44-24 win over Tasman in their semi-final.
Wins: Canterbury 45, Auckland 47, Drawn 5
Last match: Canterbury 27 Auckland 21, Christchurch 2015
CANTERBURY: 1.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Mitchell Dunshea, 5.Dominic Bird, 6.Reed Prinsep, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Luke Whitelock, 9.Mitchell Drummond, 10.Richie Mo'inga, 11.Patrick Osborne, 12.Rob Thompson, 13.Ryan Crotty, 14.Johnny McNicholl, 15.Tom Taylor.
Reserves: 16.Ged Robinson, 17.Alex Hodgman, 18.Siate Tokolahi, 19.Ben Matwijow, 20.Tom Sanders, 21.Jack Stratton, 22.Cameron McIntyre, 23.Marshall Suckling.
AUCKLAND: 1.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4.Michael Fatialofa, 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Joe Edwards, 7.Mitchell Karpik, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Kaito Shigeno, 10.Simon Hickey, 11.Ben Lam, 12.George Moala, 13.Vince Aso, 14.Bryce Heem, 15.Charles Piutau.
Reserves: 16.Kurt Eklund, 17.Tom McHugh, 18.Jono Owen, 19.William Lloyd, 20.Matt Matich, 21.Jono Hickey, 22.Mitchell Hunt, 23.Lolagi Visinia.
Squad Update: Wing Patrick Osborne returns to the Canterbury side after recoving from a calf strain which has seen Marshall Suckling return to the bench.
Auckland have moved All Black utility Charles Piutau back to fullback for the final while Vince Aso will start at centre. Lolagi Visinia has returned from injury but will come off the bench.
Key Players: Prop Nepo Laulala has made some impressive inroads this year and will be a big part of Canterbury's effort to squeeze Auckland's possession, something the Queen City players like to utilise to get their game flowing. Canterbury will know that and will also be looking to loose forwards Luke Whitelock, Matt Todd and Reed Prinsep to put the brakes on the visiting attacks. Canterbury's mid-field are always a threat while fullback Tom Taylor's goal-kicking boot is a reminder that transgressions will be punished.
Auckland have their spirit and combativeness to offer. Their own loose forwards offer much in set-up play. No.8 Akira Ioane has been one of the finds of the competition while flanker Mitch Karpik has had a season which belies his relative inexperience. And blindside flanker Joe Edwards has been making more impact the long the season has gone. Auckland also have the backs capable of taking advantage of opportunities and it is the likes of wings Ben Lam and Bryce Heem and midfielders George Moala and Vince Aso that Canterbury will be looking to contain.
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