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The Air NZ Cup NPC Week Two

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Contributor:
Scott Newman
Scott Newman

The return of some of the All Blacks that urgently need to play and re-gain confidence was the story to the second round. Trying to gain some momentum and consistency in the game early is something less to be desired by most teams. Attacking Rugby is key, as is a good defensive game! Here is a look at last week.

Northland vs. Taranaki - Northland won 29 - 16

What was Taranaki thinking? They lost their way against Northland. The Blue team did what they do best from broken play constructed and put pressure right on the bumble bees. The killer blow being Scott Waldrom's soft yellow card that sealed the deal. Northland continue to prove being a team you cannot take lightly especially with the speed/skill out wide. The 'naki are impressive for periods and then can be quite erratic. Both teams are sending signs to others that they can attack for periods but are vulnerable under pressure.

Player of the game - Lachie Munro (Northland) Started average but finished well on top of his game. Gimme try.

North Harbour vs. Tasman - Tasman won 19 - 15

Big Kudos to the Tasman Mako's for hanging in there and finishing in first place against a defensive mind set Harbour. Defense first will keep you close in most games in the NPC but at some stage you need to unleash a good attack. (Especially if you have talent out wide!)  Harbour failed to get anything finished in the Tasman end but the Mako's broke the close game to finish with two good tries. Tasman is a good side with the ball in hand and can defend well. They may be underestimated too often but then again so is Harbour. Both sides will be looking for the bottom 8 berth and importantly to stay off the bottom of the standings. Luke & Rudi were very invisible/ineffective in this game. (Sadly!)

Player of the game - Tristan Moran (Tasman) Head down and stuck into his work. A menace all night.

Otago vs. Southland - Southland won 26 - 19

That is 2 from 2 for the Stags who (like I said last week) are a big improver from previous years and are solid all round.  They play a good game. Beating two Super unions is a pretty nice way to start the season. There is always blood in this local grudge match which had the makings of being close in who wins the Donald Stuart Memorial Trophy. It all came out in the second half in an all on battle for young and old. The Otago side showed again that they seem to fail capitalising on chances where the Southland Stags make fewer mistakes.

Player of the game - Jamie Mackintosh (Southland) Led the team by example. Provided leadership for a good win.

Waikato vs. Manawatu - Waikato won 30 - 22

I feel I have to give Manawatu credit here. Yes, they were beaten (fairly soundly) but they showed character, resilience with determination to continue to attack. They even looked a chance at coming back in the last 20mins. The Mooloo men did huge damage early to stamp authority on the game. The return of Leonard, Lauaki & De Malmanche was very valuable as they are the type of players to ignite a team. Waikato still look a bit lost in themselves at this early stage. The Turbos showed they can attack all game but defending is what lets them down every time.

Player of the game - Aaron Cruden (Manawatu) This kid is brilliant. (End of year tour may not be unreachable!)

Hawke's Bay vs. Wellington - Wellington won 21 - 13

The Lions are stumbling toward early dominance of the Air NZ NPC after coming back in two straight weeks to win in spectacular fashion. Surely you cannot do that every week but that is what the Lions do. Taming the magpies was no easy feat as they are a good side. It was a very physical encounter with experience coming into play in the later parts of the game. Thomas Waldrom returned to play his long time old team. (Hiding behind Rodney's shadow) Hawke's Bay will challenge every team this season and learned a lesson from Wellington. Make fewer errors and execute at vital moments.

Player of the game - Hosea Gear (Wellington) Natural finisher who is closer to Henry's watchful eyes each game.

Auckland vs. Canterbury - Canterbury won 22 - 16

Auckland has started poorly into the NPC. The team is very vulnerable however it is still a very good side or rugby players with a balance of experience and youth. I think it is just the start of a long campaign for the most winningest NPC team in history. Canterbury took this game at Eden Park the spiritual ground for Rugby in NZ. An old fortress for Auckland Rugby. The last 15mins were the most telling as it was livened up by a fight/come back by the blue and white only to run out of time. Canterbury are a team that you need a lot of time to score a try let alone points on. One of Rugby's big rivalries gave the red and blacks a big tick.

Player of the game - Dan Carter (Canterbury) Someone tell me that he won't be starting against the Wallabies on the 22nd! I dare you?

Counties Manukau vs. Bay of Plenty - Bay of Plenty won 32 - 9

A confident display to dismantle the Counties team all game long. The Bay played a normal, controlled for position and territory (structured) type game which we see most times in a bay outing. Actually, more than not. They deserved a 4 pointer here. Counties better look to avoid the wooden spoon if they flat out attack and not defend the line, play un-disciplined then these big score lines may become more frequent. Counties show they can run the ball for sure. That style will only beat teams that fall into playing a loose game. The Bay showed nothing loose apart from breaking the line.

Player of the game - Mike Delany (Bay of Plenty) Another solid effort which earns praise from Tauranga to Rotorua. (Possibly beyond?)

 

This Week:

Otago vs. North Harbour

Canterbury vs. Waikato

Southland vs. Manawatu

Northland vs. Auckland (Historic Match in Kerikeri, Northland!)

Taranaki vs. Hawke's Bay

Bay of Plenty vs. Wellington

Tasman vs. Counties Manukau

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