Week five of the ITM Cup provided a couple of big upsets, a whole lot of tries and for once the Ranfurly Shield stayed put.
Here is what went down.
Round five review
Taranaki 23 v Hawke’s Bay 10
Tries Taranaki 2 – Hawke’s Bay 1
In what were atrocious conditions Taranaki pulled off a convincing win against Hawke’s Bay. Taranaki proved too strong on defense and Hawke’s Bay seemed to miss Ihaia West, who was on the bench for the entirety of the game.
Player that impressed: Régis Lespinas. In his first cap for the Magpies (Hawke’s Bay) he did well to fill the shoes of Ihaia West. Successfully kicked two goals in what must have been very trying kicking conditions! Hopefully we see him getting more game time.
Surprise win? Not really. The margin was perhaps a little bigger than expected.
My prediction: Wrong (Hawke’s Bay 13+). BUT the conditions played a huge role in this. Would have been a great match played in dry conditions.
*knight in shining armour award: My wife and I decided at 3pm on the day of the game that we would drive the two hours to go to the game. We had no idea what terrible conditions we would find in New Plymouth, and after only 1 minute in our uncovered stand seats we were wet through. Not that we minded. It’s part of the fun of rugby. After about 15 minutes a woman from the Taranaki Rugby Union came over and informed us that Taranaki fullback, Kurt Baker, had told her to move us to the covered stand and that he would pay for the upgrade. Certainly not something we expected to happen and we were both extremely touched by his gesture! (… I do wonder if it would have been different had we been decked out in the black and white colours of Hawke’s Bay…)
Wellington 33 v Bay of Plenty 16
Tries Wellington 3 – Bay of Plenty 1
As expected, Wellington were dominant from the start of this game. Bay of Plenty performed better in the second half, but were never going to be able to do enough to get the surprise win. When Bay of Plenty did have the ball, Wellington shut them down with very strong defense.
Player that impressed: Lima Sopoaga. The (Wellington) man can do no wrong when it comes to goal kicking! It’s a pity he was injured for most of the Super XV. The Highlanders really would have benefited from his talent!
Surprise win? Not at all.
My prediction? Correct (Wellington 13+).
Manawatu 27 v Southland 17
Tries Manawatu 3 – Southland 2
This was an exciting game to watch, a very close contest… as was expected. Manawatu were on defense for a lot of the game and showed that they can defend as well as any of the top teams.
Player that impressed: Jade Te Rure. The Manawatu first five set up one of the tries and then put in a top effort with the boot. For one so young he is scarily talented!
Surprise win? No, but a Southland win wouldn’t have been a surprise either.
My prediction? Correct (Manawatu 1-12).
North Harbour 23 v Tasman 12
Tries North Harbour 2 – Tasman 0
I’m calling this the upset of the round. It was a case of bottom of the (championship) table v top of the table, and the bottom team scored a very covincing win. Harbour shut down Tasman’s backs and took advantage of all opportunities presented to them. Tasman were missing the experience of Tom Marshall in the midfield, BUT the exclusion of ONE player cannot be used as an excuse. To say this was an off night for Tasman would be putting it politely.
Player that impressed: Jon Elrick. The North Harbour goal kicker was in good form.
Surprise win? Yes!
My prediction? Wrong (Tasman 13+).
*commentary gold: “In wet conditions I thought they had him and then like the worlds biggest bar of soap he just slipped out the back!”
Waikato 42 v Auckland 24
Tries Waikato 6 – Auckland 4
Traditionally this would have been a much hyped game, but because of Waikato’s less than impressive form this year nothing was really said about it. So what do Waikato do? Put on their most impressive performance of the season! Waikato were strong in all aspects of the game, and although Auckland kept the points ticking over, never really looked like winning.
Player that impressed: Brad Weber. The Waikato halfback scored two brilliant tries and seemed to have a part in every single play. Weber was unwanted by Otago. After seeing his performance on Saturday, I really have no idea why.
Surprise win? Yes!
My prediction? Very wrong (Auckland 13+).
Canterbury 32 v Otago 22
Tries Canterbury 4 – Otago 1
Another traditional ‘big hype’ game, which was perhaps closer than some would have imagined it would be. Right up until the until the last 10-15 minutes it looked like the game could go either way, but as Canterbury has done all season they had a burst of form right toward the end and made a last minute win by Otago impossible. BOTH teams relied on their goal kickers, perhaps a little more than they’d have wanted.
Player that impressed: Hayden Parker. The boot of the Otago first five is really all that kept them in the game. Seriously, keep an eye out for this guy in years to come.
Surprise win? No, but the margin was smaller than expected.
My prediction? Right team, wrong margin (Canterbury 13+).
*commentary gold: “… the hosts inviting a championship team to town and in Canterbury’s current form it is a bit like the Romans inviting the Christians around for tea at the Coloseum”.
Counties Manukau 44 v Taranaki 7 (Ranfurly Shield defense)
Tries Counties Manukau 6 – Taranaki 1
Counties Manukau held onto the Ranfurly Shield for another week with their extremely convincing win over a Taranaki team who didn’t really seem able to string anything together. After their win over Hawke’s Bay earlier in the week it looked as if Taranaki could be good competition for Counties Manukau, but that was not the case. Taranaki were disallowed a try that should have really been allowed, but in the grand scheme that one disallowed try didn’t mean a hell of a lot as far as the course of the game went.
Player that impressed: Counties Manukau players 1-22. ‘nuf said.
Surprise win? Not really.
My prediction? So very very wrong (Taranaki 1-12).
Hawke’s Bay 31 v Northland 26
Tries Hawke’s Bay 3 – Northland 2
This was set to be another good contest – and it was! The first half was very much one way traffic with Northland going back into the sheds with a 23-6 lead over Hawke’s Bay. But in the second half the Hawke’s Bay forwards did a good job of getting the ball out to the backs – who did what they do best – scored tries. The forwards also dominated at scrum time, especially when Northland playmaker Dan Hawkins got yellow carded about 15 minutes from full time. Hawke’s Bay made the most of this and added to their points tally, securing the win.
Player that impressed: Zac Guildford. After a couple of less than impressive games of late Zac seemed to focus on getting the basics right and was one of the standout players for the Magpies. Scored one try off the back of the scrum. A very forward-like try for the winger!
Surprise win? Not really, although at half time it looked very unlikely!
My prediction? Wrong (Northland 1-12). (I am questioning whether I accidentally wrote my prediction wrong last week! I went Hawke’s Bay 1-12 everywhere else!).
Week six predictions
Bay of Plenty v Southland
This will be close. Going with Bay of Plenty 1-12, purely because they have home advantage.
Auckland v Northland
This will either be a surprise win to Northland or a huge win to Auckland… but I will go with Auckland 13+.
Otago v Manawatu
Another close one! As with the BOP/Southland game I am going to go with home team advantage, Otago 1-12.
Counties Manukau v Waikato (Ranfurly Shield defense)
Counties seem hard to beat at the moment and Waikato haven’t been too impressive this year. Counties 1-12. (note: if Waikato do win, the Ranfurly Shield will be back where it was at the start of the season)
Wellington v Canterbury
GAME. OF. THE. WEEK. Both teams are undefeated. Both teams look unbeatable. ONE needs to lose though. In this instance I will follow my heart… Canterbury 1-12!
Taranaki v Bay of Plenty
Taranaki were convincing over one of the Bays, so I’m going with a 2-0 record for the Naki over the Bays… Taranaki 13+.
Tasman vs Hawke’s Bay
If Welly/Canterbury is the premiership game of the week then this is most certainly the championship game of the week!!! This will be close, very close, and is going to come down to which team has the luck of the draw (or perhaps the ref?….) on the night. Going with my heart again on this one… a 1-12 win to Hawke’s Bay on my birthday (the big 3 0 peeps!).
Southland v North Harbour
North Harbour DID secure a surprise win in round five, but I don’t see it happening again. Southland 1-12.
and now for my random ITM Cup statistics
Wins and losses so far this season
home / away
Counties Manukau: 1W / 2L – 1W / 2L
Wellington: 3W / 0L – 3W / 0L
Canterbury: 3W / 0L – 2W / 0L
Taranaki: 1W / 2L – 1W / 2L
Hawke’s Bay: 2W / 1L – 1W / 2L
Manawatu: 2W / 1L – 0W / 2L
Southland: 1W / 2L – 0W / 2L
Tasman: 1W / 1L – 2W / 1L
Waikato: 2W / 1L - 0W / 2L
Northland: 1W / 1L – 0W / 2L / 1D
Auckland: 3W / 0L – 2W / 1L
North Harbour: 1W / 1L / 1D – 0W / 3L
Otago: 1W / 1L – 1W / 2L
Bay of Plenty: 1W / 1L – 0W / 3L
and then of course there is the weekly ITM Cup Hotty of the Match…
Team: Hawke’s Bay