PREVIEW: Auckland v North Harbour

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Saturday, October 13, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Auckland v North Harbour, Eden Park, 2.05pm, Sunday, October 14

Played: 38
Won: Auckland 30, North Harbour 7, Draws 1
Last time: Auckland 10-57 North Harbour, Albany, September 3, 2017
Referee: Cam Stone


Auckland have joined their best season for many years with only the one loss to date, to Otago (26-31) on Eden Park. They started with a 23-19 win over Counties Manukau and backed that with other wins against: Northland (28-12), Waikato (35-17), Tasman (36-10), Canterbury (34-29), Taranaki (31-30), Wellington (29-24) and Southland (56-8). North Harbour suffered three consecutive losses in the first half of the competition when beaten by Tasman (20-32), Wellington (23-35) and Canterbury (21-31). They have posted wins against Northland (21-20), Waikato (29-28), Bay of Plenty (32-20), Hawke's Bay (51-34), Taranaki (55-26) and Counties Manukau (36-26).


Stronger opposition has meant a strong team named by Auckland with a new front row from that which beat Southland taking the field. Sam Prattley, Robbie Abel and Marcel Renata will pack down in the front row. Evan Olmstead returns at lock while Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa retains his blindside flanker's position. Dalton Papali'i and Akira Ioane return to the other loose forward positions. Coach Alama Ieremia is expecting a fiery North Harbour approach, especially as they need a win to have any chance of qualifying, pending the Wellington game against Taranaki. "It'll be a hiss and a roar coming from them. They're a team that's been together for a while and they know what finals footy is all about, so they'll be hungry to get that spot. It is, however, about looking after our backyard first and getting our tactics right," Ieremia said.


North Harbour will take an unchanged line-up into the game from that side which beat Counties Manukau in their last game. Bryn Gatland brought up his 100 points in that game while Tevita Li is the most effective try scorer in the two sides with 10 tries so far in the season. Harry Plummer with 80 points is the highest points scorer for Auckland while Salesi Rayasi leads the try scoring with seven while Tumua Manu has six tries.


Auckland have lost to North Harbour only once in their last six outings, but that loss was in their most recent game, 10-57, a record margin in encounters between the two sides.


Auckland: 1.Sam Prattley, 2.Robbie Abel, 3.Marcel Renata, 4.Fa'atiga Lemalu, 5.Evan Olmstead, 6.Waimana Riedlinger-Kapa, 7.Dalton Papalii, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Jonathan Ruru, 10.Harry Plummer, 11.Salesi Rayasi, 12.TJ Faiane (captain), 13.Tumua Manu, 14.Melani Nanai, 15.Jordan Trainor.

Substitutes: 16.Mike Sosene-Feagai, 17.Jarred Adams, 18.Marco Fepulea'i, 19.Michael Fatialofa, 20.Hoskins Sotutu, 21.Desma Liaina, 22.Jacob Umaga, 23.Caleb Clarke.

North Harbour: 1.Luatangi Li, 2.James Parsons, 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.Mark Telea, 15. Shaun Stevenson.

Substitutes: 16.Luteru Tolai, 17.Chris Eves, 18.Tony Tuungafasi, 19.Danny Drake, 20.Hapakuki Liavaa-Moala, 21.Lewis Gjaltema, 22.Loketi Manu, 23.Nick Smith.