The ITM Cup semi finals were all high scoring games and some excellent rugby was on show. The results were all as predicted and have set the scene for two very exciting games this weekend.
And what exactly were those results?
Semi final review
Wellington 41 v Counties Manukau 10
Tries Wellington 6 – Counties 2
Counties have played well all season and while a lot of people (read: Canterbury supporters) hoped for a big upset, that never really looked like happening. From kick off Wellington were far too dominant, proving again and again why they only suffered one loss in round robin play. The Wellington forwards were strong at the set piece and gave the backs a chance to do what they do best… score tries.
Player that impressed: Alapati Leiua. The Wellington back scored two tries and showed some amazing footwork.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Wrong. Being a Canterbury supporter I was one of the ‘a lot of people’ hoping for a big upset (Counties Manukau 13+).
Tasman 49 v Southland 28
Tries Tasman 6 – Southland 4
This was another game where the outcome was obvious before the game even started, and from the very start Tasman were dominant in all areas of play. Southland did make a comeback in the second half but it was nowhere near enough to look as if a last minute defeat was possible. Tasman were strong on both attack and defense, and the boot of Marty Banks kept the points ticking over.
Player that impressed: Marty Banks. Again. He is unstoppable. Scored 24 points in this match, bringing his tally for the year to 150 points, in just 8 games.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Correct (Tasman 13+).
Canterbury 56 v Auckland 26
Tries Canterbury 7 – Auckland 2
Everyone knows that Canterbury are near impossible to beat at home, therefore it was no surprise when Canterbury made up for their round robin loss to Auckland by beating them convincingly on Saturday. The weather was beautiful and both teams ran the ball a lot more than in recent wet-weather weeks… but Canterbury always managed to make it count, whereas Auckland tended to turn the ball over just when it looked as if they may score. Hadleigh Parks (Auckland) made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes, which the Canterbury team took advantage of and added points to their tally. Simon Hickey (Auckland) displayed a lot of good skill with the boot and had Auckland scored more tries the game would have been a lot more of a contest.
Player that impressed: Andy Ellis. The Canterbury halfback dislocated his shoulder in the final match of the round robin but you couldn’t tell by the way he played. He was classy at first receiver, set up tries and scored one of his own.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Right team, wrong margin (Canterbury 1-12).
Otago 24 v Hawke’s Bay 29
Tries Otago 3 – Hawke’s Bay 2
This game was always touted as the ‘could go either way’ match of the semi finals and in my opinion was more exciting than the three other games combined. When Hawke’s Bay started poorly it looked as though perhaps a big win for Otago was on the cards, but the Magpies soon got into the right headspace and the game ended up living up to all the hype. Otago scored three impressive tries and had one disallowed… had the try not been disallowed Otago would have probably won because Hayden Parker was (yet again) on song with the boot. Ihaia West was moreso though, and it was his ability to stay calm under pressure and successfully kick each penalty and conversion attempt, that won the game for the Magpies.
Player that impressed: Ihaia West. Yet again. He is just magical to watch, and is scarily talented for one so young. People talk about Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden and Tom Taylor being the future of the All Blacks #10 jersey, but I think Ihaia will surpass them all.
Surprise win? Yes or no, depending on which team you support!
My prediction? Correct (Hawke’s Bay 1-12).
And now for the all important finals predictions
Tasman v Hawke’s Bay
This is going to be a beauty of a game… but considering Hawke’s Bay seem to be peaking right now, and are saying goodbye to two of their stalwarts, I’m going to go Hawke’s Bay 1-12.
Wellington v Canterbury
It will be a good game but given Wellington’s history of choking in finals, and Canterbury’s history of winning in finals, I am going with Canterbury 13+.
And now for the penultimate ITM Cup Hotty of the Match…
position: loose forward