PREVIEW: Northland v Waikato
Thursday, September 7, 2017 allblacks.com Getty Images
Played: 74 (1926-2016)
Wins: Northland 25, Waikato 47
Last match: Northland 48 Waikato 27 (2016)
After underachieving in their respective divisions last season, both Waikato and Northland have started strongly in 2017. Waikato have picked up 14 points from four matches to sit inside the top four on the Premiership ladder. Northland won just one match in 2016 but have already doubled that this season with two victories. The Taniwha were particularly impressive in dispatching Southland 44-13 last week.
QUICK TAP: NORTH HARBOUR GRAB FOURTH WIN TO GO TOP OF THE LADDER
Expect plenty of counter attack and expansive play with both teams boasting game breakers out wide. Wing Jone Macilai and fullback Solomon Alaimalo have plenty of gas for the Taniwha, but their biggest danger is posed in the midfield. The classy duo of Rene Ranger and Jack Goodhue have been one of the best midfield pairings in the competition and will be looking to ignite the Taniwha in front of their home fans. For Waikato, Zac Guilford, Iliesa Tavuyara and Sevu Reece have been a constant menace with ball in hand and will prove a handful for the Northland defence.
Former Blues and Hurricanes utility Pita Ahki will make a timely first appearance for Waikato at second five-eighth. Ahki has been under an injury cloud and returns at a fortuitous time for the Mooloos with Dwayne Sweeny and Tevita Taufui ruled out. Ahki is a player of immense promise who has been hampered by injuries and will be looking to make a mark in his Mooloos debut.
This is set to be one of the games of the round. Both teams love to attack, are in hot form and play with plenty of passion. A very tough game to call but we are picking Northland’s home-town advantage to give them the edge, but only just.
Northland: Solomon Alaimalo, Jordan Hyland, Rene Ranger, Jack Goodhue, Jone Macilai, Dan Hawkins, Sam Nock; Matt Matich, Dan Pryor, Jack Ram, Murray Douglas, Tim Bond, Ropate Rinakama, Matt Moulds (c), Ross Wright. Reserves: Jordan Olsen, Howard Sililoto, Phil Kite, Josh Larsen, Jaycob Matiu, Matty Markwick, Tim Blundell, Blake Hohaia.
Waikato: Zac Guildford, Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara, Sevu Reece, Pita Ahki, Tyler Campbell, Sam Christie, Pele Cowley; Jordan Manihera, Mitch Jacobson, Luke Jacobson, James Tucker, Jacob Skeen (c), Sefo Kautai, Hame Faiva, Loni Uhila. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei'aho, Ayden Johnstone, Duke Nginingini, Leva Fifita, Adam Burn, Harrison Levien, Matty Lansdown, Bailyn Sullivan.
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