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PREVIEW: Bay of Plenty v Manawatu

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Bay of Plenty v Manawatu, Rotorua International Stadium, 7.35pm, Thursday

Played: 32
Won: Bay of Plenty 20, Manawatu 10, Drawn 2
Last time: Bay of Plenty 20-17 Manawatu, Palmerston North, September 8, 2017
Referee: Michael Lash

FORM

After their sterling efforts to open the season with a 30-10 win over Taranaki and a 22-17 win over Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty have gone into a slump having lost consecutive games to Canterbury (19-31h), Hawke's Bay (28-29a), North Harbour (20-32a) and Waikato (21-54h). But if it is of any relief, Manawatu have done even worse. They won their opening game against Waikato (24-19h) but have lost to Taranaki (21-41a), Otago (17-50h), Canterbury (23-34a), Northland (19-49a), Tasman (19-29h) and Wellington (7-49h).

TOUGH CAMPAIGN

Bay of Plenty are showing the effects of a tough campaign and will be without the services of loose forward Hugh Blake for the game. Captain and hooker Liam Polwart's neck injury has prevented him playing while second five-eighths Terrence Hepetema is out also. Mitch Karpik will start at flanker with Tom Crozier at hooker and Liam Steel in the midfield. With Mike Delany out for the season, Jason Robertson will start again at first five-eighths while the experienced Tanerau Latimer is a week-by-week proposition who hasn't made it for Thursday.

EIGHT CHANGES

Eight changes, including the return of skipper and openside flanker Antonio Kiri Kiri, who was rested for the Wellington game, are the main features of the Manawatu's side. Others returning are halfback Jamie Booth, wing Michael Tagicakibau (hamstring), fullback Junior Laloifi (concussion), No.8 Brice Henderson, lock Tom Hughes and props Fraser Armstrong and Michael Alaalatoa. Coach Jeremy Cotter has listed the game as do-or-die for both teams. It's tough for Manawatu, they haven't won in Rotorua since 1951, although they drew in 1979.

THE SCOOP

Bay of Plenty have never lost a provincial championship game at home to Manawatu. But they have lost their last four games in the competition and if losing on Thursday it would be their worst losing streak since their eight losses in 2013.

TEAMS:

Bay of Plenty: 1.Solomona Sakalia, 2.Tom Crozier, 3.Ross Geldenhuys, 4.Baden Wardlaw, 5.Kane Leaupepe, 6.Tyler Ardron, 7.Mitchell Karpik, 8.Hoani Matenga, 9.Richard Judd, 10.Jason Robertson, 11.Matt Garland, 12.Liam Steel, 13.Fa'asiu Fuatai, 14.Bailey Simonsson, 15.Kaleb Trask.

Substitutes: 16.Angus McDonald, 17.James Lay, 18.Jeff Thwaites, 19.Aaron Carroll, 20.Zane Kapeli, 21.Aileone Junior Lafaele-Mua, 22.Luke Campbell, 23.Chase Tiatia.

Manawatu: 1.Fraser Armstrong, 2.Sam Stewart, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Liam Hallam-Eames, 5.Tom Hughes, 6.Liam Mitchell, 7.Antonio Kiri Kiri, 8.Brice Henderson, 9.Jamie Booth, 10.Otere Black, 11.Junior Laloifi, 12.Hamish Northcott, 13.Rob Thompson, 14.Michael Tagickibau, 15.Sam Malcolm.

Substitutes: 16.Gene Syminton, 17.Faalelei Sione, 18.Sean Paranihi, 19.Nick Crosswell, 20.Brad Tucker, 21.Kayne Hammington, 22.Jade Te Rure, 23.James Tofa.