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Championship preview: Northland v Southland

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Thursday September 20, 7.35pm at Northland Events Centre, Whangarei
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour)
Played: 39 (1947-2017)
Wins: Northland 19, Southland 19, Drawn 1
Last time: Northland 44 Southland 13 (September 2, 2017, Championship)


TALE OF THE TAPE

Five of the last six games between these unions have been close, the notable exception being Northland’s 40-point win in Invercargill last season.

The Northland Events Centre is now something of a fortress for the Taniwha, who have won six of their last eight here. There is a passion about playing in front of their home fans which tends to bring out the best in the Taniwha, aided of course by the astute coaching of Derren Witcombe.

Prop Morgan Mitchell must be channelling his inner Jamie Mackintosh as he has scored in each of the last two games after not having crossed the whitewash in his first 35 appearances.
 
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JUICY MATCH-UP

The tale of the No 10s will be fascinating.

On the Northland side we have big-kicking Jack Debreczeni, who has played Super Rugby with the Melbourne Rebels and who seems to be settling nicely into the Taniwha pattern with two tries and 49 points.

Southland has given a start at first five to Broc Hooper, a versatile player who can kick goals if need be. The 24-year-old played for NZ Schools in 2012 as a wing and in the back three and at No 10 for NZ Universities in 2014-15. In 2016 he was running the cutter for College Rifles in Auckland club rugby. He will be tasked with firing the inconsistent Stags backline.
 
THE SCOOP

Northland will be favourites, by virtue of their recent form, which includes two striking home wins, a crossover triumph over Taranaki and a shellacking of Manawatu last Friday night.

Losing Tom Robinson to injury will be a blow, but the loose trio still looks muscular and committed, with Jaycob Matiu stepping into the void. Scott Gregory and Rene Ranger can potentially wreak havoc in midfield.

The Stags showed glimpses of what they can do with three tries in the 43-24 defeat at the hands of Otago. Their early line speed was good, but thereafter coughing up the ball at inopportune moments cost them dearly. Former NZ Under 20s rep Tauasosi Tuimavave slots in at fullback. Maybe he can provide some attacking flair to match the speed of Isaac Te Tamaki on the flanks.


TEAMS
Northland:
Matt Wright, Jordan Hyland, Rene Ranger, Scott Gregory, Noah Cooper, Jack Debreczeni, Sam Nock, Matt Matich, Kara Pryor, Jaycob Matiu, Murray Douglas, Temo Mayanavanua, Ropate Rinakama, Jordan Olsen (c), Isi Tu’ungafasi
Reserves: Campbell Matthews, Jack Straker, Paddy Jo Atkins, Sam McNamara, Matt Moulds, Jono Kitto, Myles Thoroughgood, Renata Roberts-Tenana

Southland: Tauasosi Tuimavave, Isaac Te Tamaki, Matt Johnson, James Wilson (co-c), Rory van Vugt, Broc Hooper, Jay Renton, Bill Fukofuka, Tony Lamborn, Jack Capil, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Ben Fotheringham, Morgan Mitchell, Flynn Thomas (co-c), Shaun Stodart
Reserves: Jesse MacDonald, Ethan de Groot, Chris Apoua, Raymond Tatafu, Brenton Howden, Nico Costa, Raymond Nu’u, Jackson Ormond