PREVIEW: Wellington v North Harbour
Saturday, September 8, 2018 Lynn McConnell Getty Images
Won: Wellington 19, North Harbour 12
Last time: Wellington 37-40 North Harbour, Wellington, October 23, 2016 (Championship semifinal)
Referee: Michael Lash
After making a strong start to the season with a 34-16 win over Otago, Wellington has slipped into up and down mode. They lost their second game to Canterbury 20-27, beat Southland 52-7 but then lost to Waikato 31-45 on Wednesday. North Harbour beat Northland first up 21-20 and backed that with another one-pointer to beat Waikato 29-28. In their most recent game they went down 20-32 to Tasman.
After their loss to Waikato earlier in the round, Wellington return home to their home ground knowing they have been unbeaten over their last nine games while averaging 44 points per game. Changes aplenty have been made to the Welllington side. Xavier Numia gets a start at loosehead prop while James Blackwell is back at lock. Vaea Fifita is on the blindside of the scrum with Du Plessis Kirifi starting on the openside with Teariki Ben-Nicholas moving back to No.8. Kemera Hauiti-Parapara starts at halfback while Jackson Garden-Bachop returns to start at first five-eighths. Malo Tuitama starts on the left wing with Billy Proctor at second five-eighths while Ben Lam returns on the right wing.
North Harbour broke a key barrier in 2016 when beating Wellington 40-37 in their Premiership semifinal. It was their first win in 10 games.
North Harbour head to Wellington with the highest lineout success rate of any team in the competition. They have achieved 93 percent, losing only two lineouts in their three games this year. North Harbour will start Jacob Pierce at lock for Ben Nee-Nee while the absence of Dillon Hunt sees Murphy Taramai on the open side flank while Sione Teu will start at No.8 for Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa. The only change in the backline sees James Dargaville starting at centre for Levi Aumua.
Wellington: 1.Xavier Numia, 2.Asafo Aumua, 3.Joel Hintz, 4.James Blackwell, 5.Will Mangos, 6.Vaea Fifita, 7.Du Plessis Kirifi, 8.Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 9.Kemera Hauiti-Parapara, 10.Jackson Garden-Bachop, 11.Malo Tuitama, 12.Billy Proctor, 13.Matt Proctor, 14.Ben Lam, 15.Wes Goosen.
Substitutes: 16.James O'Reilly, 17.Tolu Fahamokioa, 18.Tietie Tuimauga, 19.Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20.Mateaki Kafatolu, 21.Sheridan Rangihuna, 22.Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 23.Trent Renata.
North Harbour: 1.Chris Eves, 2.James Parsons, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Jacob Pierce, 6.Glenn Preston, 7.Murphy Taramai, 8.Sione Teu, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Bryn Gatland, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Harrison Groundwater, 13.James Dargaville, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Shaun Stevenson.
Substitutes: 16.Luteru Tolai, 17.Luatangi Li, 18.Mike Tamoaieta, 19.Ben Nee-Nee, 20.Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa, 21.Lewis Gjaltema, 22.Daniel Hilton-Jones, 23.Mark Telea.
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