Week four of the ITM Cup went as one imagined it would. Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury secured big wins, Taranaki lost and the Ranfurly Shield changed hands for the third time this season.
Here is how it went down.
Round four review
Auckland 22 v Counties Manukau 20
Tries Auckland 1 – Counties Manukau 2
With Counties taking on Hawke’s Bay for the Ranfurly Shield a little later in the week it was expected that Counties wouldn’t really be too bothered about the game against Auckland. BUT in the end it was a very lucky Auckland team who managed to record the win in the closing minutes of the game.
Player that impressed: Ki Anufe. The Counties Manukau kicker kept his team in the attacking half for a total of 55% of the first half and added ten points to the teams tally with his goal kicking.
Surprise win? No, but the margin was perhaps a lot closer than Auckland would have wanted.
My prediction? Right team, wrong margin (Auckland 13+).
Bay of Plenty 18 v Canterbury 48
Tries Bay of Plenty 2 – Canterbury 6
The first 30 minutes of this game had Bay of Plenty proving to be worthy competition for Canterbury and there was the slightest hint of a potential upset in the air. Then normal service was restored and Canterbury began to dominate in every aspect of the game.
Player that impressed: Tyler Bleyendaal. He seems to be going from strength to strength. Kicked 7/7 and controlled the game with some very accurate kicking. His running game was also very strong.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Correct (Canterbury 13+).
*commentary gold: “Bay of Plenty are like a psycho ex tonight, they just won’t go away!”
Southland 20 v Waikato 16
Tries Southland 2 – Waikato 1
Southland were fighting for their first win of the season, Waikato were fighting to get their season back on track…. but it was Southland who secured the victory. Waikato made a bit of a comeback in the second half but it wasn’t enough to hold off a determined Southland side. In all honesty the game was a bit of a bore, but it was good to see Southland record their first win of the season.
Player that impressed: Marty McKenzie. Kicked well for Southland…
Surprise win? Not with the way Waikato has(n’t) been playing this year.
My prediction? Wrong (Waikato 1-12).
Tasman 49 v Otago 16
Tries Tasman 5 v Otago 1
Otago looked threatening for the first half but in the second half it was all one way traffic as Tasman impressed with a couple of brilliant long range team tries. Tasman’s backs are starting to play very cohesively together and have the potential to upset any of the big name teams from here on.
Player that impressed: James Lowe. Again. Two tries (again), impressive speed, playing well with midfield duo of Kieron Fonotia and Tom Marshall.
Surprise win? No, although the margin was bigger than expected.
My prediction? Right team, wrong margin (Tasman 0-12).
*James Lowe moustache update: I called it last week, I wish I had made it public. The commentators in this game confirmed what I already knew… James Lowe looks like Freddie Mercury! The moustache is becoming a bit of a national icon.
Taranaki 15 v Auckland 51
Tries Taranaki 2 – Auckland 5
Not much to report from this game. Auckland played their best game of the season, Taranaki played their worst game of the season.
Player that impressed: The entire Auckland team.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Right team, wrong margin (Auckland 0-12).
*commentary gold: “What a bounce! That’s an O M G bounce!”
Hawke’s Bay 24 v Counties Manukau 27 (Ranfurly Shield defense)
Tries Hawkes’s Bay 2 – Counties Manukau 3
The Ranfurly Shield changed hands AGAIN when Counties Manukau beat Hawke’s Bay and won the shield for the very first time. The game was a good match up but at the end of the day it was Counties Manukau who got over the line, making the most of the opportunities that came their way. Ihaia West missed a couple of important kicks and this was the difference between Hawke’s Bay keeping and losing the shield.
Player that impressed: Sherwin Stowers. Scored a flashy try and looked dangerous whenever he got his hands on the ball.
Surprise win? Not really, the game was always going to be a close contest!
My prediction? Wrong (Hawke’s Bay 0-12).
Manawatu 15 v North Harbour 12
Tries Manawatu 3 – North Harbour 2
This game was played under VERY tough conditions (gale force wind) and was another that could have gone either way. Manawatu came back onto the field and played a better second half and managed to hold on and secure their first win of the season. It would have been a far more interesting game if the wind hadn’t had such an impact on the game.
Player that impressed: Jason Emery. The Manawatu player managed a couple of good kicks (not an easy feat in the wind), one led to one of Manawatu’s tries.
Surprise win? Not really.
My prediction? Right team, wrong margin (Manawatu 13+)
Northland 10 v Wellington 30
Tries Northland 1 – Wellington 6
Northland didn’t really make any impact on this game and the Wellington team made the most of all Northland’s errors. Sadly it was a boring game for those who wanted to see a fair contest. Wellington keep on improving and one has to imagine that the eventual finalists for the ITM Cup will be Wellington and Canterbury.
Player that impressed: Ardie Savea. A flanker making a 70 metre run like he’s an outside back. ‘nuf said.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Correct (Wellington 13+).
*close call: Early last week Wellington player Tim Bateman had a very close call when he was hit by a car while riding his scooter! Somehow he came away unscathed but his scooter was a write off (as one can imagine). Bateman’s wife has banned him from riding a scooter ever again.
Round five predictions
Taranaki v Hawke’s Bay
Hawke’s Bay will feel they have a point to prove after losing the Ranfurly Shield. Can’t see Taranaki really being serious competition. Hawke’s Bay 13+.
Wellington v Bay of Plenty
As with the previous game, cannot see Bay of Plenty being any form of competition for Wellington. Wellington 13+
Manawatu v Southland
Playing at home Manawatu could quite potentially come out of this game victorious. Manawatu 1-12.
North Harbour v Tasman
Expect a huge margin and a huge scoreline for Tasman. Tasman 13+.
Waikato v Auckland
Auckland should take this out easily enough. Auckland 13+
Canterbury v Otago
5, 10, 15 years ago it could have gone either way. But this year it won’t. Canterbury 13+.
Counties Manukau v Taranaki (Ranfurly Shield defense)
Teams always lift their game when the Ranfurly Shield is at stake. Taranaki 1-12.
Hawke’s Bay v Northland
This will possibly be the closest game of the round… The result really could go either way! Northland 1-12
…. and now for some ITM Cup stats!
Number of tries so far
total & (average per game)
*teams that have played five games (the rest have played four)
Wellington – 27 (5.4) *
Canterbury – 20 (5)
Auckland – 16 (3.2) *
Counties Manukau – 13 (2.6) *
Hawke’s Bay – 13 (3.25)
Tasman – 12 (3)
North Harbour – 12 (2.4) *
Manawatu – 9 (2.25)
Waikato – 7 (1.75)
Northland – 7 (1.75)
Otago – 7 (1.75)
Bay of Plenty – 7 (1.75)
Taranaki – 5 (1.25)
Southland – 3 (.75)
… and naturally it’s now time for this weeks ITM Cup Hotty of the Match…
Position: 6 & lock
Team: Counties Manukau