Championship preview: Northland v Waikato

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Thursday, October 4, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Saturday October 6, 2.35pm at Northland Events Centre, Whangarei
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour)
Played: 75 (1926-2017)
Wins: Waikato 47, Northland 26, Drawn 2
Last time: Northland 37 Waikato 7 (September 9, 2017, crossover)


Northland, for some reason, has had the wood on Waikato lately, winning three of the last four encounters and racking up an average of 38 points per game.

Among those is the 37-7 victory last season, in which the Taniwha ran in five tries.

But Waikato is the hottest side in the Championship, reeling off five straight wins. Since week four when it beat Wellington, Taranaki – for the Ranfurly Shield – and Counties Manukau in the space of 10 days, Jono Gibbes’ charges have set the pace.

The Taniwha are gunning for a fourth straight home victory, which would be a record for them in the Cup era.


The master faces the apprentice in midfield.

Rene Ranger, around whom Northland build much of its attacking impetus, will run out in the Taniwha No 13 jersey. Opposing him for the Mooloos will be the impressive youngster Quinn Tupaea, who will have help from his skipper Dwayne Sweeney on the inside. Let us hope both men receive plenty of ball to show their wares.

Waikato has two wings who are converted midfielders in Bailyn Sullivan and Sevu Reece.

Waikato is bringing the form, but it has made changes to its pack, perhaps with the Shield defence against Otago in mind.

Among those forwards, however, are Jordan Manihera, James Tucker and Samisoni Taukei’aho, so they are not soft touches at all. Taukei’aho has eight tries to his name. No other forward is in the top 10 for Mitre 10 Cup tries.

Waikato has, in all, scored 41 tries to Northland’s 27, but the Taniwha are a stiffer proposition on defence than, say, the 2015 team, and can fall back on the howitzer boot of Jack Debreczeni. The rest of the stats are comparable. So the Taniwha aim will be to negate Reece and Tupaea, not to mention the Mooloos general Fletcher Smith.

Myles Thoroughgood, Jordan Hyland, Rene Ranger, Blake Hohaia, Renata Roberts-Tenana, Jack Debreczeni, Jono Kitto, Matt Matich, Kara Pryor, Tom Robinson, Murray Douglas, Josh Goodhue, Ropate Rinakama, Matt Moulds (c), Isi Tu’ungafasi
Reserves: Jordan Olsen, Boyd Wiggins, Paddy Jo Atkins, Aorangi Stokes, Jaycob Matiu, Sam Nock, Noah Cooper, Tamati Tua

Waikato: Matty Lansdown, Bailyn Sullivan, Quinn Tupaea, Dwayne Sweeney (c), Sevu Reece, Fletcher Smith, Jack Stratton, Jordan Manihera, Jono Armstrong, James Tucker, Laghlan McWhannell, Tim Bond, Joshua Iosefa-Scott, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ayden Johnstone
Reserves: Mike Mayhew, Toby Smith, Sosaia Fale, Mitch Jacobson, Adam Burn, Raniera Takarangi, Pepesana Patafilo, Tyler Campbell