Mitre 10 Cup Semi Finals: Canterbury v North Harbour Preview

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Canterbury will be aiming to secure a spot in yet another Mitre Cup Premiership Final when they host North Harbour this Saturday morning.

The defending champions will be looking to secure their ninth Mitre 10 Cup Premiership appearance when they lock horns with North Harbour in Saturday's 6 AM kick off. The visitor will be no pushovers, however, as they are extremely astute when it comes to the defensive side of the game. Canterbury will have to put in a solid shift here as if North Harbour are given an inch they will certainly take a mile.

Canterbury v North Harbour | Saturday 21 October | AMI Stadium | 06:05

To Win Match (80 Mins)
Canterbury 2/11 | Draw 28/1 | North Harbour 7/2
Canterbury (-13.5) 9/10 | North Harbour (+13.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap

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A few week's ago it looked as though Canterbury would canter to yet another Premiership title, but a few rocky performances have made that prediction seem rather premature.

The defending champions got their title defence off to a blistering start as they won five of their opening six games by 30 points or more. They then travelled to Wellington where they tasted their first defeat of the round-robin phase, going down to their Championship opponents by  60-14.

They managed to bounce back from that defeat by beating this weekend's opponents 28-41. They then registered a routine victory over Waikato but followed that up with a 43-55 loss to Taranaki, which saw them lose the Ranfurly Shield.

Their final fixture of the season was against Auckland. The clash itself was highly entertaining with Canterbury eventually running out 27-32 victors.

In terms of team news for this one, the hosts will be without their attacking focal point Richie Mo'unga with the pivot being called up to the New Zealand squad for their Bledisloe 3 clash with Australia. His game management and accuracy from the kicking tee will be sorely missed by the hosts.

North Harbour
This North Harbour side are a purist's dream. Defensively sound and able to do the basics right, North Harbour's gameplan is a throwback to a bygone era but it's also illustrated that you don't need to throw massive skip passes in your 22, or look for a back of the hand off-load everytime you go into contact, to be successful in even the most innovative of climates.

It's not like North Harbour haven't been able to score points with their more conservative approach, either. The men from Auckland accumulated 331 points during the round-robin phase and managed some big wins including a 47 point victory over local rivals Auckland. They also only suffered losses on their way to the semis, the first coming against Otago in the opening round and the second coming against Canterbury in week 6. They managed to stay within this weekend's expected handicap in the latter going down by 13 points.

Verdict: North Harbour (+14.5) 9/10 *Please note that this is a forecast handicap
There's no doubting Canterbury's ability but their recent form coupled with the loss of talismanic pivot Richie Mo'unga to the All Blacks makes a home victory seem less of a certainty. And while M'ounga will be back for the final it's not guaranteed that his side will be involved in it as North Harbour are more than capable of springing a surprise here. The smart play is to back the visitors on the plus.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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