While we know the identity of six of the eight quarterfinalists already, there’s still fourth place to play for in both conferences with Hawke’s Bay and Otago locked in a battle to claim fourth place on the Odds Conference while Northland will be looking to pip Tasman to fourth place on the Evens Conference.
Saturday 1 October
Otago 7/4 | Draw 28/1 | Canterbury 9/20 (08:05)
The first of our selected previews sees Otago face off against Canterbury. While the visitors have wrapped up top spot in the Evens Conference with room to spare. They have already secured 41 points from their nine round-robin fixtures. I reckon they’re likely to field a weakened side, but there’s still a lot riding on this one for Otago who are fourth on the Odds Conference level on points with Hawke’s Bay.
The hosts for Saturday have enjoyed a decent fortnight beating Waikato 27-20 in Round 8 and then followed that up with a 35-54 victory over Manawatu this past weekend.
Like their opponents, Canterbury also had a solid time of it in Round 9 as they cantered to a 38-20 victory over fellow big guns Auckland. This was Canterbury’s eighth win of the season with their only defeat being a surprise 16-10 Round 3 loss to a struggling Taranaki side.
Canterbury should give a number of players a rest here so as not to risk them for the quarter-finals. With this in mind and Otago desperate for the win, my money will be on the hosts. For a bit more safety, back them to remain within the (7.5) handicap at 9/10.
Sunday 2 October
Waikato 49/100 | Draw 24/1 | Bay of Plenty 7/4 (05:35)
Next up it’s over to Waikato for what is yet another crucial NPC fixture. Waikato know that all they need to do here to book a spot in the quarter-finals is claim a bonus point. However, they will be looking for more than that as they are level on points with Bay of Plenty, who occupy the last home semi-final berth on the Odds Conference.
Northland’s win over Bay of Plenty on Wednesday means that Waikato are now very much in the running for a home semi-final berth.
The hosts have endured a tough old fortnight going down 27-20 to Otago before being hammered 34-6 by Wellington this past weekend. Bay of Plenty have fared better over the last two weeks beating Southland 54-21 and then edging Hawke’s Bay 20-14. Thet were, however, narrowly beaten by Northland on Wednesday, going down 21-23.
There is seriously nothing between these two sides as is evident by viewing the log standings. Bay of Plenty would have been bitterly disappointed by their midweek home loss and now face a tough trip to Waikato. I’m on the hosts here.
North Harbour to beat Southland @ 1/10
Auckland to beat Taranaki @ 1/5
Wellington to beat Counties Manukau @ 1/3
Northland Win to beat Manawatu @ 19/100