Welcome to the first weekly ITM Cup review-slash-preview! The last ITM Cup round as I saw it and the next ITM Cup round as I see it… With a little eye candy factor thrown in for good, pervy measure.
Round one review
Counties 16 v Wellington 55
Tries: Counties 1 – Wellington 8
There isn’t really a heck of a lot one can say about this game. Wellington came out to win and they accomplished their goal. In a big way. The Tana Umaga coached Counties-Manukau team never really looked like coming close.
Player that impressed: Sinoti Sinoti (Wellington). Speedy, awesome sidestep. I’m already picking him for the Hurricanes squad for 2014. You heard it here first.
Surprise win? No.
Canterbury 30 v Taranaki 6
Tries: Canterbury 4 – Taranaki 0
Again, not a hell of a lot to say about this game. Even though theirs wasn’t a perfect game by any means, Canterbury dominated from the get-go and never looked like losing. Tyler Bleyendaal impressed with the boot, while Willie Heinz stepped up to the mark in the captaincy role. Matt Todd was consistently good and scored one of the teams tries with a sneaky little tap and go. Patrick Osborne had a great game, showing off his spectacular speed and footwork skills. Taranaki were able to run a few good phases, but the support was never there to carry them to the tryline.
Player that impressed: Jamie Verran (Canterbury). Made a few good runs and was relatively composed considering it was his first ITM Cup game. If he gets more game time he is going to be one to watch.
Surprise win? No.
*note: if you watch any of the Canterbury matches this season, expect to think you are seeing triple. Matt Todd, Jamie Verran and Ben Funnell all look so alike that one could be forgiven for thinking they’re brothers, and in the case of Todd & Verran, twins.
Hawke’s Bay 45 v Manawatu 18
Tries: Hawke’s Bay 7 – Manawatu 2
A traditional derby contest, Hawke’s Bay came away with a convincing win over Manawatu. The Hawke’s Bay backs showed that they are going to be a bother to any team they come up against, especially the outside backs combo of Zac Guildford, Telusa Veainu and Gillies Kaka who all ran in tries – Guildford’s after a charge down – just 11 seconds into the second half. Manawatu were a better team in the second half, running in two good tries, but not doing enough to be competitive. Of course any Rebels fans watching would have enjoyed seeing Ged Robinson and Nic Stirzaker coming up against each other, both having good games. There was a rather amusing moment when Telusa Veainu got his try and the C-City Brothers song ‘Never Walk Away’ played for the crowd. Telusa is one of the five Crusaders players who make up the C-City Brothers manband.
Player that impressed: Jade Te Rure (Manawatu). The (only just turned) 20 year old impressed with the boot, and I believe he is another up and coming player to watch for the rest of the season, and as far as the Super XV goes.
Surprise win? No.
*Tear jerker: Zac Guildford dedicating his try to Chris Sutherland, who sadly passed away last week after a brief battle with cancer.
(A lot of Kiwi readers will already know this story, but for anyone who wants a little background…. Chris & his wife Kelly spent the last 18 months watching their gorgeous son – Lachie – battling cancer, only to find out in early July that Chris had terminal cancer. Zac has been a supporter of Lachie from very early on, and has developed a very close bond with Lachie and the rest of the family, helping to raise funds for Lachie’s treatment, and Chris’ care. After news of Chris’ passing, Zac announced he was dedicating his season to Chris. Anyone interested can donate to the wonderful Sutherland family online.
Southland 15 v Tasman 25
Tries: Southland 0 – Tasman 2
I’m not sure whether Tasman’s attack was brilliant or Southland’s defense was awful, but either way Tasman put on a brilliant attacking display, often breaking through Tasman’s defensive line. Had their support on attack been better, Southland could have scored tries and potentially won the match. But they didn’t. Moot point.
Player that impressed: James Lowe (Tasman). It seemed that every time the Tasman winger touched the ball he made a huge burst down field, and in doing so, ran (well, sprinted) in two tries. Very very impressive. Moreso if he shaved off his moustache… or grew a beard.
Surprise win? Tasman fans would say no, Southland fans would say yes…
Waikato 31 v Northland 22
Tries: Waikato 4 – Northland 1
Waikato retained the Ranfurly Shield by winning this game, however it really did come down to the last few minutes, in what was a very evenly contested match! Waikato held the lead for the entire match, but Northland kept them on their toes and there were flashes of brilliance from both teams.
Player that impressed: Rene Ranger (Northland). The Northland captain (who turned down a spot in the All Blacks to play for Northland, before departing for France in November) led his team well and played a hard, physical game. Surely a great inspiration for his teammates.
Surprise win? No.
Auckland 27 v North Harbour 20
Tries: Auckland 4 – North Harbour 2
Auckland won the ‘battle of the bridge’, but by no means played to their ability. North Harbour made a late comeback in the second half, which could have seen them win the bragging rights of the two ‘main’ Auckland based teams (Counties-Manukau is also based in the Auckland area). Scrums were a mess in general, but Auckland performed well in the lineouts and North Harbour’s midfield backs gave glimpses of brilliance that suggested they will become a strong unit as the ITM Cup progresses.
Player that impressed: Luke Braid (Auckland). Gave a solid performance in the #7 jersey. Rocked the beard.
Surprise win? No.
Otago 32 v Bay of Plenty 29
Tries: Otago 2 – Bay of Plenty 2
This game was very much dominated by penalties, with each side giving away far too many. Bay of Plenty took the early lead before Otago caught up to them and scores were tied for awhile. Bay of Plenty took the lead again. Scores were levelled again, before more penalties meant that the two kickers were essentially taking turns kicking between the uprights, with Otago getting the final penalty, earning them the win. It was a close game, but admittedly boring to watch for those who enjoy watching outside backs tear up the paddock.
Player that impressed: Hayden Parker (Otago). He didn’t get a lot of time on the field for the Highlanders this season, but if he keeps up the good form with the boot, may find himself with a more dominant role in next years Highlanders squad, especially with Colin Slade now out of the picture.
Surprise win? Otago fans would say no, Bay of Plenty fans would say yes…
Round two predictions
North Harbour v Counties
It will be close, but my prediction is North Harbour by 0-12
Taranaki v Wellington
Another close one, Taranaki will have learnt a lot from last weekends loss, but my prediction is Wellington by 0-12
Waikato v Otago (Ranfurly Shield)
I know my dad will disown me & probably not get me a birthday present for saying this, but I am predicting Waikato by 13+
Tasman v Canterbury
Tasman diddled Canterbury in the pre-season, but I’m predicting Canterbury by 0-12
Northland v Southland
Another close game, but I am predicting Northland by 0-12
Bay of Plenty v Hawke’s Bay
Yet another closey – the ‘battle of the bay’ – and I predict Hawke’s Bay will win by 0-12
Manawatu v Auckland
I think this will be a blow out, my prediction is Auckland by 13+
… and now for the promised eye candy factor…
Each week I will introduce you all to an ITM Cup player who impressed for reasons other than his talent on the rugby field. I will try to add a player from each team…
This weeks ITM Cup Hotty of the Match is…….
Position: Fly half / Fullback