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PREVIEW: Bay of Plenty v Counties Manukau

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Saturday, September 23, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Bay of Plenty v Counties Manukau, Tauranga Domain, Sunday, 2.35pm

TALE OF THE TAPE
Elijah Nicholas will start on the right wing in the only change to the playing XV for Bay of Plenty. James O'Reilly, Aidan Ross and Matthew Axtens will start off the bench with Matthew Garland likely to make his debut also off the bench. Counties have retained the same starting pack which accounted for Hawke's Bay last week while in the backline Nigel Ah Wong moves from wing to centre with Albert Nikoro starting on the right wing.

Played: 58
Wins: Bay of Plenty 28, Counties Manukau 29, Draws 1
Last time: Bay of Plenty 34 Counties Manukau 39, Pukekohe, 2016

TOUGH SCHEDULE

Bay of Plenty are stepping up again having downed Southland 57-0 on Wednesday while Counties Manukau have had a week's break since playing four games in 14 days. Just how that will be reflected in Sunday's game remains to be seen. At least Bay of Plenty were not tested with a tight game in their last outing. However, it is a vital chance for Premiership side Counties Manukau to keep the relegation pressure on Auckland in the Premiership by picking off four points against a Championship side.

STATS CHECK

Counties Manukau sit at the bottom of the Premiership, two points behind Auckland but with this game in hand. Bay of Plenty are fifth in the Championship one point off the play-offs zone so they also have plenty to play for on Sunday. Counties Manukau have scored 15 tries but have only made 46 clean breaks and beaten 78 defenders while their tackle success rate stands at 83.8 percent. By comparison, Bay of Plenty have scored 21 tries with 62 clean breaks and 112 defenders beaten and a tackle success rate of 87.2 percent. Two key performers for the sides are their respective captains and locks, Keepa Mewett for Bay of Plenty and Jimmy Tupou for Counties Manukau. Mewett has played five games to Tupou's four with Mewett making 31 carries to 19 by Tupou. However, in metres gained Tupou has a 40-33 advantage. Mewett has made 18 passes to 14 and 21 lineout takes to 18. Tupou has done better in defence making 31 tackles and missing only two while Mewett has made 35 tackles and missed seven.

TEAMS

Bay of Plenty: 1.Solomona Sakalia, 2.Liam Polwart, 3.Jeff Thwaites, 4.Culum Retallick, 5.Keepa Mewett (captain), 6.Tom Franklin, 7.Hugh Blake, 8.Jesse Parete, 9.Richard Judd, 10.Mike Delany, 11.Joe Webber, 12.Terrence Hepetema, 13.Lalakai Foketi, 14.Elijah Nicholas, 15.Chase Tiatia.

Substitutes: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Aidan Ross, 18.James Lay, 19.Troy Callender, 20.Matthew Axtens, 21.Luke Campbell, 22.Matthew Garland, 23.Isaac Te Aute.


Counties Manukau: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.Joseph Royal, 3.Coree Te Whata-Colley, 4.Ronald Raaymakers, 5.Jimmy Tupou, 6.Johnathan Kawau, 7.Fotu Lokotui, 8.Samuel Henwood, 9.Augustine Pulu, 10.Baden Kerr, 11.Tevita Nabura, 12.Orbyn Leger, 13.Nigel Ah Wong, 14.Albert Nikoro, 15.Tim Nanai-Williams.

Substitutes: 16.Gafatasi Su'a, 17.Sean Bagshaw, 18.Kalolo Tuiloma, 19.Viliame Rarasea, 20.Viliami Taulani, 21.Liam Daniela, 22.Stephen Donald, 23.Luteru Laulala.