Key play­ers for Tani­wha rested with in­juries

The Northern Advocate - - Sport - Im­ran Ali

Hav­ing al­ready qual­i­fied for the Mitre 10 Cup cham­pi­onship play­offs, North­land’s coach­ing panel has per­haps hedged their bets by rest­ing key play­ers for to­day’s last round-robin clash against Bay of Plenty.

Rugby pun­dits may have thought Dar­ren Wit­combe and co would make a few changes this week­end to en­sure there is an in­jec­tion of en­ergy for the semis, wher­ever the Tani­wha get to play that match.

Most of the changes are no doubt in­jury-en­forced and the key will be to get them fit and rar­ing to go come knock­out rugby.

The likes of Rene Ranger, Josh Good­hue, Tom Robin­son, Matt Matich and Kara Pryor are ab­so­lutely vi­tal if the Tani­wha are to scrape past the semis and play in the crown­ing match.

De­spite their ab­sence, North­land will still field a pretty for­mi­da­ble line-up and most of those in the start­ing 15 have played a lot of rugby for their clubs and re­gion over the years.

There’s one school of thought which says the in­jury to key play­ers will give the coaches greater po­ten­tial to re­con­fig­ure tac­ti­cally and struc­turally.

The risk, should the team lose or fail to bag max­i­mum points, is a likely re­match with Waikato in Hamil­ton and no­body needs a re­main­der what hap­pened the last time they played.

That’s if the Mooloos beat Otago in the Ran­furly Shield chal­lenge to­day and host a semi­fi­nal and North­land fin­ish in fourth po­si­tion.

The other school of thought is for North­land, cur­rently on 22 points, to throw the kitchen sink at Bay of Plenty, lan­guish­ing be­hind the Tani­wha on 16 points, and come away with a bonus­point win in Tau­ranga.

Should they win and Otago lose with­out any bonus points, North­land will climb into third po­si­tion and will likely play away to Hawke’s Bay, on 28 points, next week­end. North­land team to play Bay of Plenty

1) Jack Straker

2) Matt Moulds

3) Ropate Ri­nakama

4) Sam McNa­mara

5) Temo Mayana­vanua

6) Ao­rangi Stokes

7) Kane Ja­cob­son

8) Jay­cob Matiu

9) Sam Nock

10) Jack De­breczeni

11) Gre­gory Scott

12) Blake Ho­haia

13) Ta­mati Tua

14) Jor­dan Hy­land

15) Matty Wright.

There’s a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity of the Mag­pies knock­ing the Mooloos off their perch if Waikato fail to se­cure any points in the Ran­furly Shield chal­lenge.

For the Tani­wha, the fo­cus will need to be to win the bat­tle to­mor­row as well as the war next week­end.

Jack Straker has re­placed an in­jured Ross Wright at prop and, to­gether with Ropate Ri­nakama at tigh­head and skip­per Matt Moulds, the trio com­plete the front row.

Temo Mayana­vanua and Sam McNa­mara will be the twin props while Ao­rangi Stokes and Kane Ja­cob­son the blind­side and open­side flankers re­spec­tively.

Jay­cob Matiu slots in at No 8 in place of an in­jured Matt Matich.

Vet­eran Sam Nock and Jack De­breczeni start as the halves’ pair, Gregor Scott and Jor­dan Hy­land the wingers, and Blake Ho­haia and Ta­mati Tua the cen­tres.

Matty Wright has been named in his pre­ferred full­back po­si­tion.

The re­serves will be Camp­bell Matthews, Isileli Tu’un­gafasi, Paddy Jo Atkins, Lu­cas Al­bornoz, Taniela Manu, Mac Sykes, Wiseguy Fa­iane, and Noah Cooper.

The match at Tau­ranga Do­main kicks off at 2.35pm.

PHOTO / JOHN STONE

Flanker Kara Pryor will miss North­land’s last round-robin match against Bay of Plenty through in­jury.

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