PREVIEW: Otago v Hawke’s Bay
Thursday, August 23, 2018 allblacks.com Getty Images
Referee: Shuhei Kubo
Played: 56 (1887-2017)
Won: Otago 34, Hawke’s Bay 21,
Last time: Otago 64, Hawke’s Bay 21 (10 September 2017)
Hawke’s Bay started their campaign with a comprehensive 10-31 win over Southland in their opening round cash in Invercargill on Sunday. Otago came up short against Wellington 34-16 but the score would have been much closer if it wasn’t for a 17-point burst by the Lions in the opening 10 minutes.
QUICK TAP: PLAYERS TO WATCH IN THE HEARTLAND CHAMPIONSHIP
Although they boast a set of slick backs, it was the Magpies forward pack that stood up against the Southland Stags last week. All four of the Magpies tries came from the driving maul with skipper Ash Dixon grabbing a double and prop Mark Braidwood and flanker Josh Kaifa picking up one each. Otago would have worked hard during the week to diffuse the Magpies set-piece and will be relying on their experienced front row of Aki Seiuli, Sam Anderson-Heather and Hisa Sasagi to gain the advantage up front.
Two highly promising first five-eighths will have the chance to strut their stuff on a dry track at Forsyth-Barr Stadium. 21-year-old Magpies pivot Tiaan Falcon was highly impressive in his debut Super Rugby season for the Chiefs this year and controlled the ship expertly against Southland last week. Otago’s Josh Ioane is a couple of years older than Falcon at 23-years-old and offers a similar skill set to his Hawke’s Bay counterpart. Both are ball playing pivots who are very good on their feet and can challenge the line. With a dry track guaranteed, expect both of these young players to ignite their back lines in what should be an expansive game.
FAST FACT (Opta)
Otago picked up a 64-21 win when these teams last met, snapping a six-game losing streak against the Magpies prior.
Otago are a genuine contender in the Championship this year and won’t want to find themselves winless after two rounds. They offer a much tougher proposition under the roof at Forsyth-Barr Stadium than they do away from home with 10 wins from their last 14 games played at home. The home side should have enough fire power and strength up front to win this early season clash but will not to keep a lid on the Magpies inside half pairing of Brad Weber and Tiaan Falcon.
1: Aki Seiuli 2: Sam Anderson-Heather 3: Hisa Sasagi 4: Tom Rowe 5: Josh Dickson 6: Naulia Dawai 7: Slade McDowall 8: Sione Misiloi 9: Josh Renton 10: Josh Ioane 11: Jona Nareki 12: Sio Tomkinson 13: Matt Faddes 14: Josh Timu 15: Vilimoni Koroi
Reserves: Seki Pole, Tom Hill, Donald Brighouse, Joketani Koroi, Sam Dickson, Kurt Hammer, Matt Whaanga, Taylor Haugh
1: Mark Braidwood 2: Ash Dixon 3: Ben May 4: Tom Parsons 5: Michael Allardice 6: Marino Mikaele-Tu’u 7: Josh Kaifa 8: Gareth Evans 9: Brad Weber 10: Tiaan Falcon 11: Mason Emerson 12: Pasqualle Dunn 13: Stacy Ili 14: Jonah Lowe 15: Jamie-Jerry Taulagi
Reserves: Ben Power, Joe Apikotoa, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Devan Flanders, Will Tremain, Folau Fakatava, Toifilau Sasa, Michael Buckley
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