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The Air NZ Cup NPC Week One

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Scott Newman
Scott Newman

The real national rugby competition started last week. The Air New Zealand NPC Rugby Cup is back. There were plenty of upsets and records broken in the first week. The competition looks set to preview the best up and coming rugby players. I was delighted to see a lot of people in each stadium. Here is a little preview into each team, including results of the week.

Tasman vs. Taranaki - Taranaki won 21 - 9

First game of the round was a good tight battle with a Tasman team that is not shy of throwing the ball around and playing some rugby. Taranaki traditionally showed they win the game up front and have enough out the back to ask questions of a team's defense. There were not many opportunities in the match to break out until the final 20mins. Tasman led at halftime but couldn't bust through a solid Taranaki pack.

Player of the match: Jayden Hayward (Taranaki) Great try & a great talent coming through.

Bay of Plenty vs. Northland - Bay of Plenty won 19 - 14

The Bay was lucky to get out this game with a win. As they were down 14-3 by half time. Northland has shown us that they are a continuous improvement each year with the speed they have out wide. The Bay possesses a balanced team of players who have fairly good game experience. This showed through the game as they hung in there to show character of turning pressure into points. Kudos to the Steamers. The Blue will be back and will learn from their mistakes to show against the unwary.

Player of the match: Mike Delany (Bay of Plenty) Kicked the team out of any trouble & brought the team home.

Wellington vs. Otago (Ranfurly Shield match) Wellington Lions won 23 - 19

Otago! You should have won that shield! How dodgy did Wellington look in that game (sorry Kirkpatrick that was a shocker!) I thought that the Lions would grind down the Otago attack but instead looked as typical as a Wellington outfit gets by winning from great counter attacking rugby efforts. Otago showed that they have a good platform to set with the forwards and they have options out wide. I was impressed by Otago even if the shield was on the line. Hosea Gear buried the unlucky hapless side by an outside break and finished. Heartbreaker. Still, shows Wellington are one of the favourites of the competition. As for the Shield, that will be a target of the red and black kind.

Player of the match: Adam Thomson (Otago) Did his darndest turning over ball. Scored a try in a lost cause.

Hawke's Bay vs. Auckland - Hawke's Bay won 47 - 13

The Magpies erased a 35 year old winless streak against Auckland with a huge defeat to upset the first week. This was game of the round in a way as it showed how important rugby is to Hawke's Bay. They are very serious about this year. They have belief, support and great young players. Experience in the playoffs, a well balanced team with a good first five. (Mathew Berquist) They mean business. I see them doing really well (again!) Auckland is in rebuild with Kurtis Haiu the most experienced Auckland player. It is a good team without any all blacks or ex All Blacks (for now) they will improve but this match was a pleasure for Hawke's Bay fans or enemies of Auckland rugby? (lol)

Player of the match: Karl Lowe (Hawke's Bay) The wrecking machine teams nice with the tough Magpie forwards.

North Harbour vs. Canterbury - North Harbour won 22 - 19

The return of Dan Carter. I went to this game (being a Harbour supporter) It was a defensive game with DC kicking a lot of territory and was solid. He left the game with the score tied. 19-19. Harbour has learned a lot more about Defending with new coaches Craig Dowd & Jeff Wilson taking over (whew... sorry Pivac)  Canterbury may have got a bit greedy at the end of the game pushing toward the line and had Stephen Brett in the slot but luckily time expired with Harbour getting a rare win over the red & black in front of a faithful crowd. Canterbury are still favourites to win the NPC this year.

Player of the match: Mike Harris (North Harbour) took the heat from the opposite number and matched with mostly solid boot.

Southland vs. Waikato - Southland won 16 - 6

The Mooloo men completed the day of upsets with a struggle to get anything going against a stags outfit which look like a team to be reckoned with. The Southern men are always tough to beat at home. The Waikato team couldn't quite penetrate the stags or get the set piece working right. A patchy Waikato side which has the guns to get the job done. The game will come back to the Mooloo soon enough. Southland looks a good prospect (again) this year. Solid.

Player of the match: Robbie Robinson (Southland)  The young Stags fly half with a good bright future ahead.

Manawatu vs. Counties Manukau - Manawatu won 36 - 31

What the heck happened to Counties defense? The lead was not held against the Turbos who cannot be faulted for determination. They took their opportunities with the guidance of Aaron Cruden who is a very good player of the future.  The game showed a lot of running rugby. Also an important lesson of what might happen if you do not defend your line against these counter attacking teams who thrive on chances from broken play/tackles. Entertaining but it is not going to be easy against teams with good defense for both of them.

Player of the match: Casey Stone (Manawatu) For pulling off the highlight of the weekend! Chasing down a certain try from the other side of the field. Scoring a try & general enterprising play.

This Week:

Northland vs. Taranaki

North Harbour vs. Tasman

Otago vs. Southland

Waikato vs. Manawatu

Hawke's Bay vs. Wellington

Auckland vs. Canterbury

Bay of Plenty vs. Counties Manukau

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