North Harbour close in on semifinal spot
Albany: Not that he would say as much, but North Harbour coach Steve Jackson knows his team have one foot in the Championship semifinals after a 44-34 win over Bay of Plenty yesterday. Harbour picked up five competition points in the six tries to five win over the Steamers and more importantly they gave themselves more breathing space over BOP who are fifth in the standings. Harbour are now six points clear of the Steamers and with a game in hand. Common sense suggests they won’t blow it from here. “We didn’t speak about that all week, we knew as a management group that it was a really important game and it was the same for the leadership group,” Jackson said. “But we didn’t let on to the boys, although they knew how much we needed this game. “To come away with it edges us a little bit closer, but we’re not there yet and we know we’ve got a big game coming up this week. “We’ll enjoy tonight, but wake up in the morning and look forward to playing Canterbury.” That game against Canterbury on Friday will be their second Ranfurly Shield challenge of the year, having lost 26-15 to North Harbour in round two. After that, Harbour play Tasman and Northland and if they continue to play like they did against the Steamers a semifinal spot should be assured. It was an impressive display on attack from Harbour with Tevita Li bagging two tries, man of the match Matt Duffie setting up two and scoring one, while captain Chris Vui, Matt Vaega and Nic Mayhew scored the other Harbour tries. The Steamers continually struggled with Harbour’s pace out wide and once Jackson’s side stopped dropping the ball so much, which was a problem in the first half, they looked an impressive outfit.
“We spoke about ball security at halftime,” Jackson said. Bay of Plenty’s New Zealand Sevens player, Teddy Stanaway scored his side’s only try in the first half, as they trailed 20-10 at the break. Results: Tasman 15-10 Counties Manukau,Wellington 60– 21Southland, Hawke’s Bay 30-21 Manawatu, Auckland 54 – 17 Otago. -Stuff .
in another era but Canterbury coach Scott Robertson won’t allow such nonsense ahead of the match against Taranaki this afternoon. First five-eighth Richie Mo’unga, who shifts to the reserves for this Mitre 10 fixture in New Plymouth, had this to say about Canterbury’s postgame celebrations following their 29-23 win in the shield challenge against Waikato in Hamilton on Wednesday night. “We had a few beers, but there was nothing silly.” So there you have it. Having captured the log o’ wood for the first time since they last held it in 2011 the players were permitted to have a dig at the bar, but were mindful they needed to complete a recovery session before climbing on a bus for the trip south the next day. It sounds a bit boring when you read it in black and white, but the crammed schedule of the domestic provincial competition means the days of repeat sets of parties following shield raids are gone. There is also the issue of Robertson not wanting his men to make fools of themselves against a Taranaki team well capable of exploiting a side on the comedown after such a quick turnaround. Given this will be Canterbury’s third match in eight days Robertson has gone into rotation-mode, making six changes. The most notable is at first-five where Ben Volavola will start, meaning Mo’unga, who has appeared in seven of Canterbury’s games in addition to 16 for the Crusaders, is on the bench. Robertson has made two amendments to his front row, starting Daniel Lienert-Brown at loose-head prop and Nathan Vella at hooker. Lock David McDuling comes into lock, halfback Alby Mathewson is at halfback and George Bridge will get a run on the left wing. By electing to name Bridge in the No 11 jersey, Robertson has shifted Nathan Earle to the right flank. Post-shield comedowns have a nasty habit of blowing-up in the holder’s face, a result of the players not being in decent shape, mentally and physically, for the next scrap. Mo’unga was never going to say otherwise, but he seemed genuine when he backed Canterbury to not fall to pieces.
Pride, he said, plays a big part in that: “This team wants to be the best it can be.” Taranaki have banked five wins from seven games, and are second on the premiership table behind Canterbury who, with three games to play in the regular season, are well placed to host a home semifinal. Canterbury: Johnny McNicholl, Nathan Earle, Jack Goodhue, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Ben Volavola, Alby Mathewson, Luke Whitelock (captain), Jed Brown, Reed Prinsep, David McDuling, Scott Barrett, Siate Tokolahi, Nathan Vella, Daniel LienertBrown. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Alex Hodgman, Oli Jager, Dominic Bird, Billy Harmon, Jack Stratton, Richie Mo’unga, Inga Finau.
Taranaki: Stephen Perofeta, Declan O’Donnell, Seta Tamanivalu, Sean Wainui, Latu Vaeno, Marty McKenzie, Kylem O’Donnell, Iopu Iopu-Aso, Berny Hall (c), Mitchell Brown, Leighton Price, Ben Matwijow, Ryan Cocker, Rhys Marshall, Mitchell Graham. Reserves: Sione Lea, Jared Proffit, Reuben O’Neill, Lachlan Boshier, Toa Halafihi, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Johnny Fa’auli, Jackson Ormond. Stuff