Semifinal Preview: Bay of Plenty v Otago

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Thursday, October 19, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Bay of Plenty v Otago, Tauranga Domain, Tauranga, 2.35pm (Championship semifinal)


Played: 37
Wins: Bay of Plenty 13, Otago 24
Last time: Bay of Plenty 36 Otago 28, Dunedin, 2017

Having won at Forsyth Barr Stadium a few weeks back, Bay of Plenty have an edge in favouritism by getting to play this semifinal on their home turf and during the afternoon. It is something they have been comfortable with in the past and the increasing confidence of their side will look to take advantage of this. They are well served up front with Keepa Mewett having developed into a fine captain. They will be without Culum Retallick who has a rib injury. Their loose forwards have been boosted by Mitchell Karpik's return and he should form a good combination with Hugh Blake while No.8 Jesse Pareta has been a consistent contributor for the side. Among the backs halfback Richard Judd has thrived with the experience of Mike Delany outside him while the speed of the midfield and outside backs has been a factor in the side reaching the play-offs. In fullback Chase Tiatia and wings Monty Ioane and Joe Webber they are well served to make the most of the sorts of chances that mid-fields Terrence Hepetema and Lalakai Foketi have been able to create with their ability to break defensive lines.

Having been there and being so close to doing that in the last three years, Otago know what the demands of knockout situations are and that has to be an advantage in a tight game. They are not without their own virtues in the tight five where hooker Sam Anderson-Heather has set a fine example. Lock Josh Dickson has the ability to dominate the lineout contest if well supported while the contest for flankers Adam Knight and Dillon Hunt will be to make an impression against the home livewires in the loose. Preferences in the Otago backline have changed during the competition with Jonathan Ruru establishing himself at halfback and Josh Ioane so effective at first five-eighths that a player like Fletcher Smith has to start from the bench. Tei Walden and Sio Tomkinson have demonstrated their worth many times during the year and their ability to restrict the opportunities for their opposites will be vital for Otago's hopes. On the wing they will miss Jona Nareki, their top try scorer of the season but fellow wing Mitchell Scott and fullback Matt Faddes have the ability to compensate for his loss.

Otago won a close game at Tauranga last year 33-32 and will be happy if they can do it by one point again but they face a daunting task. Bay of Plenty showed their hand in subduing Otago earlier in the competition and must take the favouritism into the game.


Bay of Plenty: 1.Aidan Ross, 2.Liam Polwart, 3.Jeff Thwaites, 4.Keepa Mewett, 5.Troy Callander, 6.Mitchell Karpik, 7.Hugh Blake, 8.Jesse Parete, 9.Richard Judd, 10.Mike Delany, 11.Joe Webber, 12.Terrence Hepetema, 13.Lalakai Foketi, 14.Monty Ioane, 15.Chase Tiatia.

Substitutes: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Jordan Lay, 18.James Lay, 19.Tyler Ardron, 20.Henry Stowers, 21.Luke Campbell, 22.Matthew Garland, 23.Elijah Nicholas.

Otago: 1.Craig Millar, 2.Sam Anderson-Heather, 3.Donald Brighouse, 4.Blair Tweed, 5.Josh Dickson, 6.Adam Knight, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Sione Teu, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Josh Ioane, 11.Latu Vaeno, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Patelesio Tomkinson, 14.Mitchell Scott, 15.Matt Faddes.

Substitutes: 16.Sekonaia Pole, 17.Aki Seiuli, 18.Hisa Sasagi, 19.Josh Furno, 20.Slade McDowall, 21.Josh Renton, 22.Fletcher Smith, 23.Vilomoni Koroi.