PREVIEW: Northland v Bay of Plenty
Friday, August 18, 2017 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
TALE OF THE TAPE
Having finally ended their run of consecutive defeats at 19 by beating Waikato last year, Northland have good cause to get things back on track early this year in the Championship. There is a more experienced core to the team Matt Moulds will lead onto Toll Stadium on Sunday. The backline looks especially strong and will be even stronger when Crusader centre Jack Goodhue can be considered for selection. But that won't be this week. But Bay of Plenty don't lack either on the experience front and it will be interesting to see what influence returning first five-eighths Mike Delany can have.
Wins: Bay of Plenty 24, Northland 35, Drawn 1
Last time: Bay of Plenty 50-25 Northland, Rotorua International Stadium, 2016
As has been seen in other sides in the Mitre 10 Cup this year, older players are returning to finish off their careers on the domestic scene and one-Test All Black Mike Delany is yet another example for Bay of Plenty. He goes into the season having played 61 games for the side, while scoring 489 points between 2005 and 2010. He cut his links with New Zealand and headed for the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan after the 2011 Super Rugby campaign and played 27 games before moving to France to play 30 games for Clermont Auvergne and then added another 30 games for the Newcastle Falcons. He will have plenty to offer Bay of Plenty this season and a special hand to play in guiding new halfback Richard Judd through his debut game.
Northland fans have had their patience tested in recent seasons but signs are good that Derren Witcombe's second stint with the side offers more productive results. He has a solid core up front to work with where Moulds and lock Josh Goodhue set the standards. In the loose the Pryor brothers Dan and Kara offer genuine speed around the park while the backline has welcome competition for places. Rene Ranger will test any backline Northland meet while wing Solomon Alaimalo made the most of his chances in Super Rugby this year. Dan Hawkins has first start at first five-eighths ahead of Peter Breen while sharp wing Jone Macilai is starting off the bench on Sunday.
Substitutes: 16.Jordan Olsen, 17.Ross Wright, 18.Ropate Rinakama, 19.Jack Ram, 20.Matt Mattich, 21.Malcolm MacLeod, 22.Peter Breen, 23.Jone Macilai.
Bay of Plenty: 1.Aidan Ross, 2.James O'Reilly, 3.Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 4.Tom Franklin, 5.Keepa Mewatt, 6.Hugh Blake, 7.Mitchell Karpik, 8.Tyler Ardon, 9.Richard Judd, 10.Mike Delany, 11.Joe Webber, 12.Terrence Hepetema, 13.Lalakai Foketi, 14.Monty Ioane, 15.Chase Tiatia.
Substitutes: 16.Seb Siataga, 17.Jordan Lay, 18.Jeff Thwaites, 19.Troy Callander, 20.Henry Stowers, 21.Luke Campbell, 22.Elijah Nicholas, 23.Isaac Te Aute.
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