Our rugby writer takes a look at the four biggest Mitre 10 Cup week two clashes that get underway this Thursday.
So the Mitre 10 Cup got underway last weekend and boy did Canterbury lay down a marker with their 43-3 victory over a decent looking Auckland side. There were a few other sides that lay down a marker of their own with Wellington’s attacking prowess coming to the fore against Hawke’s Bay and Tasman putting in a gutsy display against Waikato.
This week throws up some intriguing clashes including the week’s opener between Otago and Waikato. We’re going to focus our attention on four of this week’s seven fixtures below:
Otago v Wellington | Thursday 25 August | Forsyth Barr Stadium | 09:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Otago 11/10 | Draw 20/1 | Wellington 15/20
This should prove to be a highly entertaining clash with a plethora of Super Rugby players including Liam Coltman, James Leintjies, Brad Webber, and Matt Proctor all set to take to the field.
The hosts for Thursday’s clash started off their opening round fixture against Hawke’s Bay rather slowly and entered the halftime break two points down. Wellington fly-half Jackson Garden-Bachop put in an inspired performance during the opening quarter of the second half to ensure his side would overturn the deficit and run out 36-26 victors. The son of former All Black, Stephen Bachop, had the ball on a string for the majority of the half with his tactical kicking pegging the fired up Hawke’s Bay pack back into their own territory. The young pivot also made a slew of neat conversions and linked up with his outside backs magnificently. Wellington will look for another big performance from the Junior All Black this weekend.
Otago also got their 2016 campaign off to a winning start running riot out in Invercargill. The men from the South Island of New Zealand ran out 23 point victors despite going into the half-time 12-5 down to Southland. Substitutes James Leinjties, Fletcher Smith, and Aki Seiuli helped swing the momentum in favour of Otago as they ran in four second-half tries.
Verdict: Wellington 15/20
This is going to be a hell of a game and the scoreline is likely to be rather tight. My money is on Wellington edging it by the narrowest of margins.
Auckland v Northland | Friday 26 August | Eden Park | 09:40
To Win (80 Mins)
Auckland 1/25 | Draw 33/1 | Northland 8/1
Auckland were extremely poor last weekend. No scratch that, poor is too kind a word, let’s go with horrendous rather. The men from the North Island of New Zealand couldn’t even muster up a try in their 42-3 defeat to title favourites Canterbury. To compound matters for Auckland, they will be without promising young back Rieko Ioane as well as James Parsons who have both been called up to the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship squad.
Northland also got their 2016 campaign off on the wrong foot going down 34-27 in a thrilling match against Manawatu. The defeat would have been a bitter pill to swallow for Northland who were seven points to the good with less than 15 minutes left on the clock. They will have to be a lot more focused this weekend as they are coming up against a wounded beast in an Auckland side who will be hellbent on atoning for last week’s dismal display in Canterbury.
Verdict: Auckland 1/25
Despite their failings last week, I still have high hopes for this Auckland side. Back them to get their season back on track with a home win over Northland this Friday.
Waikato v North Harbour | Saturday 27 August | FMG Stadium | 04:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Waikato 2/7 | Draw 22/1 | North Habour 5/2
Our next port of call is the FMG Stadium in Waikato which will be the scene for a showdown between Waikato and North Harbour. The visitors for Saturday’s fixture come into this one off the back of an intense 20-17 victory over Championship outfit, Counties Manakau. The scoreline could have been a lot more flattering for North Harbour had it not be for a few rudimentary handling errors from their backs.
Waikato’s run of wretched form against Tasman continued last week as they were downed 24-19 at Lansdowne Park. Having taken a 10-9 lead into the half-time break and enjoying the wind at their backs for the second stanza, most Waikato fans would have been expecting the Tasman hoodoo to finally be put to an end. It wasn’t to be, however, as Tasman put in a brilliant second half showing that saw them run out five-point victors.
Waikato were dealt a big blow in the build-up to this clash with the mercurial Damian Mckenzie being called up to the national squad.
Verdict: North Harbour 5/2
They created plenty of chances last week but were let down by some poor handling errors. My money is on North Harbour ironing out those handling flaws which should see them to a victory this Saturday.
Canterbury v Tasman | Sunday 28 August | AMI Stadium | 04:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Canterbury 1/5 | Draw 25/1 | Tasman 7/2
Our final preview for this weekend is the Canterbury versus Tasman game and in all honesty, I don’t have much to say about this game other than Canterbury are going to put a huge score over Tasman. The hosts were as clinical as they could have possibly been in their dismantling of Auckland last week. Pivot Richie Mounga put in a masterclass while winger Johnny McNicholl picked up where he left the Super Rugby season off with a barnstorming performance that saw him grab two tries.
Tasman were decent value against Waikato last week but their pack did look susceptible at the set piece which is one of Canterbarians biggest strengths.
Verdict: Canterbury 1/5
There is only going to be one winner in this derby and that is going to be Canterbury. Back the defending champions at 1/5.