Bay of Plenty out to cement top spot
September 9, 2009
Tanerau Latimer lead the Bay of Plenty celebrations in the last round © Getty Images
Round seven of the Air New Zealand Cup sees Bay of Plenty out to extend their lead at the top of the table following an outstanding victory over the reigning champions Canterbury last weekend, but Southland are hot on their heels.
The action kicks off in Whangarei on Thursday, where Northland host Counties Manukau. The home side head in to the game off the back of a draw with high-flying Southland and again call on Lachie Munro to pull the strings at fly-half.
Northland were undone by a late try to Southland hooker Jason Rutledge, missing out on vital points as they look to pull clear of the basement. Counties will be desperate for the same as they are adrift at the bottom after being thrashed 62-19 by Wellington last weekend.
Tasesa Lavea leads a Counties side featuring New Zealand Sevens skipper DJ Forbes in the back-row, with one-time All Black wing Lelia Masaga starting on the wing.
Thursday's second game sees Taranaki face Counties' tormentors Wellington in New Plymouth. The home fans saw the boot of fullback Jack Cameron secure a 17-13 win over North Harbour last weekend and he retains a starting berth. Tony Penn leads from the front-row, with Scott Waldrom slotting in to the back-row.
Wellington are without their All Blacks due to the Test match in Hamilton, but will be in buoyant mood after bouncing back from their Ranfurly Shield loss two weeks ago. Discarded New Zealand prop Neemia Tialata starts up front alongside skipper Jacob Ellison, with Daniel Kirkpatrick and Alby Mathewson at halfback.
Leaders Bay of Plenty travel to face the side currently level with them on points, Southland, on Friday. Bay skipper Colin Bourke will again be hoping to lead from the front after a gutsy display against the Cantabs, but his back-row is missing Tanerau Latimer this time around. Luke Braid and Mark Burman complete it, with Mike Delany at fly-half after another dependable display last time out.
Southland skipper Jamie Mackintosh has been bracketed alongside Fai Mika in the front-row, with Michael Peterson set to join the bench if he is ruled out. Robbie Robinson and Scott Cowan are at halfback.
Also on Friday, Waikato take on Tasman in Blenheim, while Saturday's action sees North Harbour welcome Hawke's Bay and Canterbury take on Otago. The round will wind up on Sunday when Auckland host Manawatu.
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship