Round nine was the final round robin round of the ITM Cup and it has to be said that some of the best rugby was saved for last. There were two big upsets, one of which decided who has home team advantage in the semi finals this weekend, and there were also a couple of games which came down to the wire.
The completion of round nine meant that we said goodbye to six teams: Waikato, Taranaki & Bay of Plenty from the premiership division and Manawatu, Northland and North Harbour from the championship division.
This is how the final round robin round went down.
Round nine review
Northland 21 v Otago 31
Tries Northland 3 – Otago 4
Otago pulled ahead in the first half and it looked as if there was going to be another big score posted, but Northland made a good come back in the second half and eventually managed to close the gap to 10. It was disappointing to see Northland lose in what was Rene Ranger’s second last match in New Zealand.
Player that impressed: Rene Ranger. The Northland captain gave his most impressive effort of the ITM Cup. He is going to be sorely missed next year.
Surprise win? No
My prediction? Correct (Otago 1-12).
Hawke’s Bay 35 v Wellington 24
Tries Hawke’s Bay 4 – Wellington 3
It took until the FINAL game of the round robin but someone FINALLY managed to tame the Lions! Hawke’s Bay took the early lead and minus three minutes in the second half held the lead for the entirety of the game. It wasn’t that Wellington played badly, Hawke’s Bay just played better and their backs were particularly impressive.
Player that impressed: Ihaia West. Again this season Ihaia gave a full performance, as impressive on defense as he was on attack. Added to his try tally for the year and his overall points tally. If he misses out on a Super XV contract I will officially lose faith in the NZRU.
Surprise win? Yes!
My prediction? Wrong (Wellington 13+).
Counties Manukau 25 v Southland 7 (Ranfurly Shield defense)
Tries Counties Manukau 3 – Southland 1
I don’t think it was ever in doubt that Counties Manukau would win this game and retain the Shield for the summer… but Southland’s performance was less than impressive, in what was a very one sided match. Counties were very hard to stop with ball in hand and dominated Southland in all aspects of the game, particularly at scrum time. Southland made too many mistakes and gave away too many turnovers to really have a chance at adding points to the board.
Player that impressed: Ronald Raaymakers. The Counties lock had a good game and provided a lot of impact on defense and in the lineout. Scored a good try from a ruck.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Correct (Counties Manukau 13+).
Northland 20 v Bay of Plenty 19
Tries Northland 3 – Bay of Plenty 3
Northland led throughout and very fittingly Rene Ranger scored a try in his last game in New Zealand. Bay of Plenty made a comeback in the second half but yet again suffered defeat by the smallest of margins.
Player that impressed: Mateo Malupo. Scored two of Northland’s three tries.
Surprise win? No.
My prediction? Correct (Northland 1-12).
North Habour 0 v Canterbury 38
Tries North Habour 0 – Canterbury 6
This game was never going to be a ‘who will win’ type of game, but more of a ‘by how much’.. and Canterbury did a good job of keeping North Harbour scoreless in this game. I did expect a bigger points differential though.
Player that impressed: Willi Heinz. The Canterbury halfback led the team well and ran in a great try after a Johnny McNicholl offload.
Surprise win? Not at all.
My prediction? Correct (Canterbury 13+).
Waikato 22 v Taranaki 14
Tries Waikato 3 – Taranaki 2
Waikato took the early lead and at half time were ahead 15-0. Taranaki came back in the second half and did what they could to close the gap and try to take the lead but Waikato were too good on defense. A yellow card to Jarrad Hoeata didn’t help Taranaki’s case either.
Player that impressed: Semisi Masirewa. The Waikato winger made some spectacular line breaks and spent a lot of his time running with the ball, was unlucky to not score a try.
Surprise win? Depends if you are a Taranaki supporter or a Waikato supporter. A very even match up as far as teams & performance in 2013 goes.
My prediction? Wrong (Taranaki 1-12).
Otago 37 v Auckland 33
Tries Otago 3 – Auckland 4
The second big upset of the weekend came when Otago got one up over Auckland. The game was characterised by some good old fashioned running rugby by both teams. It could have gone either way but eventually the boot of Hayden Parker got Otago over the line.
Player that impressed: Hayden Parker. Not for the first time this season Hayden Parker did what he had to to ensure that Otago secured the win. More proof that #10 stocks in NZ are very healthy… probably just as well considering the amount of #10’s who get injured!
Surprise win? Yes.
My prediction? Wrong (Auckland 13+).
Tasman 57 v Manawatu 14
Tries Tasman 8 – Manawatu 2
Manawatu needed to win this game to secure a semi final spot, but as expected the men from the mighty ‘Watu failed. Miserably. Tasman worked hard at the breakdown and joined together phase after phase to score some hard earnt team tries. There were also instances of individual brilliance leading to stunning individual tries. Marty Banks again scored 20+ points (27 to be exact) including two tries. Watch out for him (in the Hurricanes) in the Super XV, especially if Beauden Barrett gets injured. And lets face it, he’s a Kiwi #10. It’s likely.
Player that impressed: Tim Perry. The Tasman prop scored two tries, one which even involved a bit of running!
Surprise win? Yea nah.
My prediction? Correct (Tasman 13+).
Semi final predictions
Wellington v Counties Manukau
I’m going for the upset with this one. Counties Manukau 13+.
Canterbury v Auckland
Because of home advantage I am picking Canterbury 1-12, though they do have some injury concerns. Should be a close match.
Tasman v Southland
I could pretend to consider Southland have what it takes to beat a dominant Tasman team, but they don’t. Tasman 13+.
Otago v Hawke’s Bay
This SHOULD be a good game, it should be a CLOSE game and it will likely come down to the boots of Hayden Parker and Ihaia West to determine who wins. I am going for another away upset, Hawke’s Bay 1-12.
ITM Cup 1st XV – as chosen by yours truly
- Tim Perry (Tasman)
- Motu Matu’u (Wellington)
- Ben Afeaki (North Harbour)
- Ronald Raaymakers (Counties Manukau)
- Joe Wheeler (Tasman)
- George Whitelock (Canterbury)
- Shane Christie (Tasman)
- Victor Vito (Wellington)
- Willi Heinz (Canterbury)
- Ihaia West (Hawke’s Bay)
- Zac Guildford (Hakwe’s Bay)
- Shaun Treeby (Wellington)
- Kieron Fonotia (Tasman)
- James Lowe (Tasman)
- Trent Renata (Waikato)
And now for the ITM CUP HOTTY OF THE MATCH…