PREVIEW: Taranaki v North Harbour

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Friday, September 28, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Taranaki v North Harbour, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, 5.05pm, Saturday, September 29

Played: 27
Won: Taranaki 10, North Harbour 17
Last time: Taranaki 33-64 North Harbour, Albany, October 15, 2017
Referee: Tim Griffiths


Taranaki have lost five of their seven games to date, although two have been by one point. They started with a 10-30 away loss to Bay of Plenty but then beat Manawatu 41-21 in what proved their only successful Ranfurly Shield defence in the competition and then beat Counties Manukau in Pukekohe 26-19. But since then it has been all downhill with losses to Northland (17-18a), Waikato (19-33h), Tasman (17-53a) and Auckland (30-31h). North Harbour has four wins, but three losses midway through the competition to sides above them on the points table. They beat Northland 21-20 at home and Waikato 29-28 away. They then lost to Tasman (20-32), Wellington (23-35a) and Canterbury (21-31h). Since then they have beaten Bay of Plenty (32-30h) and Hawke's Bay (51-34a).


Coach Willie Rickards gave a vote of confidence in the Taranaki team that pushed Auckland so close in their last game by naming an unchanged side to meet North Harbour – the first time that has happened this season. Rickards said he wanted to build on the positive effort and was looking for a more cohesive performance. A big part of the effort was down to having first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta back from injury. "He has so much to offer the side and his return was evident with his awareness and ability to control the backline," Rickards said. Missing from the substitutes will be Logan Crowley who suffered a concussion. New Zealand Under-20 player Xavier Roe will take his place.


Sione Mafileo will start at tighthead prop for North Harbour with Mike Tamoaieta in the substitutes while Ben Nee-Nee returns for Danny Drake at lock. The loose forwards have seen two changes with Glenn Preston on the blindside and Murphy Taramai at No.8 joining Dillon Hunt who remains on the open side. The only change in the backline is Daniel Hilton Jones for James Dargaville at centre.


Taranaki will need to win to avoid a fifth-straight loss which would be their longest losing streak in the format involving the Premiership/Championship split


Port Taranaki Whio will host the Otago Spirit in the Farah Palmer Cup with the game starting at 2.35pm.


Taranaki: 1.Chris Gawler, 2.Ricky Riccitelli, 3.Reuben O'Neill, 4.Jarrard Hoeata, 5.Leighton Price, 6.Pita Sowakula, 7.Tom Florence, 8.Mitchell Crosswell, 9.Brendon Leonard, 10.Stephen Perofeta, 11.Manasa Mataele, 12.Teihorangi Walden, 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Regan Ware, 15.Beaudein Waaka.

Substitutes: 16.Donald Maka, 17.Jared Proffit, 18.Kyle Stewart, 19.Tupou Va'ai, 20.Jesse Parete, 21.Xavier Roe, 22.Ciarhan Matoe, 23.Brayton Northcott-Hill.

North Harbour: 1.Luatangi Li, 2.James Parson, 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Ben Nee-Nee, 6.Glenn Preston, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Murphy Taramai, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Bryn Gatland, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Harrison Groundwater, 13.Daniel Hilton Jones, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Shaun Stevenson.

Substitutes: 16.Loteru Tolai, 17.Chris Eves, 18.Tony Tuungafasi, 19.Jacob Pierce, 20.Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa, 21.Lewis Gjaltema, 22.Loketi Manu, 23.Mark Telea.