Preview: Auckland v Northland
Friday, August 25, 2017 Mitre10Cup.co.nz Getty Images
Played: 116 | Auckland wins: 79 | Northland wins 32 | Draws: 5
A young and vulnerable Auckland side enter Saturday's clash with a point to prove. They were pipped 14-16 by Counties Manukau in the Battle of the Bombays, with ill discipline allowing the hosts to capitalise late in the match. The match was scrappy with handling errors aplenty, and so the onus will be on the Auckland's kicking game in particular to improve. For Northland, the Taniwha managed a come-from-behind win over Bay of Plenty, thanks to 21 unanswered points in the second half to send Toll Stadium into raptures. Rene Ranger was particularly impressive out wide, as was Dan Pryor at the breakdown.
Auckland played Northland after being humbled by Canterbury a week earlier. Despite more carries (134-109) and passes (134-91), the Taniwha were overwhelmed 37-15 in a five-tries-to-two defeat.
One set of brothers playing together can be a rarity, but Northland boast three sets in the matchday squad. Statisticians will be on the look out to see if the Wright (Matty and Ross), Goodhue (Jack and Josh) and Pryor (Dan and Kara) brothers all get game time together.
Auckland's Ferrari-like backline looked more like a two-stroke lawnmower last week, and it should up the tempo against a Taniwha side with stars of their own. With Peter Breen at first five-eighths and a key strike weapon in Ranger, Northland have the opportunity to cause some damage at Eden Park. Home advantage will definitely favour Auckland, and they should do it in a canter. However, the visitors have already proved once this season they can come back from big margins to steal a victory. This one should be a thriller.
Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Greg Pleasants-Tate, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 5.Scott Scrafton, 6.Samuel Slade, 7.Sinclair Dominikovich-Murray, 8.Blake Gibson, 9.Jono Hickey, 10.Daniel Bowden, 11.Caleb Clarke, 12.George Moala, 13.Malakai Fekitoa, 14.Vince Aso, 15.Jordan Trainor.
Reserves: 16.Kurt Eklund, 17.Isi Tu'ungafasi, 18.Dexter Fa'amoana, 19.Ben Nee-Nee, 20.Josh Kaifa, 21.Leon Fukofuka, 22.TJ Faiane, 23.Otumaka Mausia.
Northland: 1.Howard Sililoto, 2.Matt Moulds (captain), 3.Namatahi Waa, 4.Tim Bond, 5.Murray Douglas, 6.Jack Ram, 7.Kara Pryor, 8.Dan Pryor, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Peter Breen, 11.Solomon Alaimalo, 12.Tamati Tua, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Rene Ranger, 15.Matty Wright.
Reserves: 16.Jordan Olsen, 17.Ross Wright, 18.Ropate Rinakama, 19.Josh Goodhue, 20.Matt Matich, 21.Malcolm MacLeod, 22.Dan Hawkins, 23.Jone Macilai.
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