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PREMIERSHIP PREVIEW: Taranaki v Auckland

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Friday, September 21, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Taranaki v Auckland, Saturday 22 September, 7.35pm, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth

Played: 126 (1889-2017)
Won: Auckland 87, Taranaki 30, Drawn 9
Last time: Taranaki 49, Auckland 38 (9 September 2017)
Referee: Glen Jackson

FORM
It has been a real renaissance from Auckland in 2018 with five straight wins placing them at the top of the Premiership heap after five rounds. Taranaki picked up back-to-back wins over Manawatu and Counties Manukau early in the competition but have also conceded four losses to leave them floundering at the bottom of the Premiership. Such is the tightness of the competition, one win could lift the Bulls as high as fifth on the ladder depending on other results. 

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FAST FACT (Opta)
Taranaki have lost their last three Mitre 10 Cup games in a row heading into this fixture; the last time the Bulls lost more consecutive games within a single-season was a four-game drought in 2007 which included a 22-13 defeat to Auckland.
AWESOME AKIRA
It’s been a big news week for Akira Ioane with the announcement that he has signed on for Auckland and the Blues until 2021. The powerful No.8 has been in commanding form for Auckland in the Mitre 10 Cup and would love nothing more than top off his week with a win over Taranaki. Taranaki’s Mitchell Croswell is a seasoned campaigner in the eight jersey and will relish the opportunity to go head-to-head with one of the rising stars of New Zealand rugby.
THE SCOOP
Generally when looking at a clash between the top and the bottom side you would always give the heavy advantage to the top side. But just 12 months ago it was Taranaki leading the Premiership so there is no doubting the class they still have in their squad. With the threat of relegation looming and the boost of playing in front of their home fans, Taranaki will offer a stern challenge to Auckland. The men from north of the Bombays should come away with the win but it won’t come easy. If Taranaki can scoop a bonus point or two it could prove crucial in staving off relegation to the Championship.

TEAMS
Taranaki

1: Chris Gawler 2: Ricky Riccitelli 3: Reuben O’Neill 4: Jarrad Hoeata 5: Leighton Price 6: Pita Sowakula 7: Tom Florence 8: Mitch Crosswell 9: Brendon Leonard 10: Stephen Perofeta 11: Manasa Mataele 12: Teihorangi Walden 13: Seta Tamanivalu 14: Regan Ware 15: Beaudein Waaka
Reserves: Donald Maka, Jared Proffit, Kyle Stewart, Tupou Vaai, Jack White, Logan Crowley, Ciarhan Matoe, Brayton Northcott-Hill

Auckland

1: Ezekiel Lindenmuth 2: Robbie Abel 3: Marcel Renata 4: Faatiga Lemalu 5: Jack Whetton 6: Evan Olmstead 7: Dalton Papalii 8: Akira Ioane 9: Jonathan Ruru 10: Harry Plummer 11: Salesi Rayasi 12: TJ Faiane 13: Tumua Manu 14: Melani Nanai 15: Jordan Trainor
Reserves: Mike Sosene-Feagai, Jarred Adams, Marco Fepulea’i, Lyndon Dunshea, Hoskins Sotutu, Jacob Umaga, Tanielu Tele’a