Air NZ Cup Preview: Bay of Plenty v Auckland

Getty Images     12 Sep 2008     Getty Images

VENUE & TIME: Rotorua International Stadium, Friday September 12, 19.35 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 54 – Bay of Plenty 11, Auckland 43.

LAST TIME: August 3, 2007 (Mt Maunganui) – Bay of Plenty 3-41 Auckland.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Bay farewelled Jamie Nutbrown in style last week but replacing him is no easy matter. Auckland flanker Kurtis Haiu will be missing after putting his hand through a window and himself out of action for some time; this injury is a severe one and his season might be over.

FORM: Bay of Plenty rebounded well from its heavy defeat at Wellington and the first half against Otago was clinical. While the second spell was more of a battle, the Steamers deserved their five points and once again demonstrated the value of doing the basics well. Auckland managed to hang onto the Ranfurly Shield – exactly how is a bit of a mystery – but for the sixth time in as many outings hardly fired a shot and, once again, the backline was completely out of synch. With a top eight place hanging in the balance, Auckland needs to get its act together smartly.

WHO'S HOT: There are plenty of hot hands in the Bay team at present, with the under-rated forward pack all going well. Culum Retallick was prominent in all areas last week but he only popped up in open play when the hard work was done. The scrum was solid and the lineout came right after a shaky start, giving the talented loose forwards a good platform to work from. Tanerau Latimer and Colin Bourke have been standouts all season and both were strong again. Mike Delany showcased his growing command at this level with another excellent display and his goal-kicking (5 from 5) could not be faulted. However the entire Bay team, not just the four named, was impressive. Auckland would dearly love to have a bunch of candidates for mentions here, but they haven't. We would pick out Jay Williams, who has been honest all season, and the well-regarded trio of Daniel Braid, Taniela Moa and Benson Stanley as being vital to Auckland's cause this weekend. Joe Rokocoko would like to see the ball more often than just in the pre-game pass-around but chances have been scarce so far.

WE THINK: It's not often Bay of Plenty goes into a match with Auckland as strong favourite, but that ranking is deserved in 2008. We also think the Bay, having played well for Jamie Nutbrown last week, will be determined to do better without him this time. Our pick is the Bay by 10-15 points.


Bay of Plenty: 1 – Joe Savage, 2 – John Pareanga, 3 – James McGougan, 4 – John Moore, 5 – Culum Retallick, 6 – Tanerau Latimer (captain), 7 - Luke Braid, 8 – Colin Bourke, 9 - Ruki Tipuna, 10 – Mike Delany, 11 – Jason Hona, 12 – Nigel Hunt, 13 – Corey Aporo, 14 – Lance MacDonald, 15 – Zar Lawrence.

Reserves: 16 – Dean Elmiger, 17 – Matt Wallis, 18 - Josh Katene, 19 – Aidan Kuka, 20 – Kelly Haimona, 21 – Paula Asaeli, 22 – Toby Arnold.

Auckland: 1 – Paea Fa'anunu, 2 – Tom McCartney, 3 – Charlie Faumuina, 4 – Stanley Haukinima, 5 - Jay Williams, 6 – Dean Budd, 7 – Daniel Braid, 8 – Peter Saili, 9 - Taniela Moa, 10 – Lachie Munro, 11 – David Smith, 12 - Benson Stanley, 13 – Ben Atiga (captain), 14 – Joe Rokocoko, 15 – Jamie Helleur.
Reserves: 16 – Pauliasi Manu, 17 – Nick White, 18 – Anthony Elisala, 19 – Onosai'i Auva'a, 20 – Grayson Hart, 21 – Winston Stanley, 22 – Watisoni Lotawa.

REFEREE: Josh Noonan