Sportal.co.nz 27.Aug.2011Getty Images
VENUE & TIME: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth, Sunday August 28 @ 1635
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 47; Taranaki 23, Hawke's Bay 18, drawn 6.
LAST TIME: September 25, 2010 (Napier) – Hawke's Bay 32-24 Taranaki.
WALKING WOUNDED: Taranaki had few problems naming their side for this match; Jarrad Hoeata replaces Chris Walker from the side that won at Invercargill. Bay skipper Mike Coman went down with what looked a nasty knee injury on Wednesday and he will be missed. Karl Lowe goes back to No 8 and Adam Bradey moves to the side of the scrum. Bryn Evans returns after getting over a virus and leads the team, but Hika Elliot is still out with his hamstring issues.
Round 5: lost to Manawatu 10-15 (a)
Round 6: beat Bay of Plenty 39-33 (h)
Round 7: beat Tasman 26-23 (h)
Round 8: lost to Canterbury 0-27 (a)
Round 9: beat Southland 15-12 (a, RS)
Round 5: lost to Tasman 19-21 (h)
Round 6: beat Wellington 40-20 (h)
Round 7: beat Bay of Plenty 32-12 (a)
Round 8: beat Counties-Manukau 44-14 (h)
Round 9: lost to Northland 34-43 (a)
If Taranaki stumbled in Christchurch (more of a face-plant than a stumble) the side recovered quickly enough to battle its way to a first Shield triumph for 15 years. There was nothing fancy about how it was achieved at Invercargill – pressure, eliminating mistakes and taking chances off the tee is not normally considered the stuff to pack 'em in but for those in New Plymouth and its surrounding towns it was nothing less than poetry in motion. Taranaki knows all about Shield rugby, having had several decent tenures in the past, and this team has the ability to start a pretty decent run. Hawke's Bay also knows about the Shield, but hasn't seen it for 42 years and so motivation will be there in spades for the Magpies. They know they can win this one – the pair's recent battles have generally fallen Hawke's Bay's way – but nothing less than total commitment and concentration will get it done. That was lacking in Whangarei, when Hawke's Bay got bullied in the forwards and cut open in the backs, before slumping to defeat they were not counting on or happy about having to cop. A few brain explosions late in the match didn't help but the Magpies' place in the final, which was hardly in doubt, was secured the following night when Manawatu beat Tasman.
WHO'S HOT: Taranaki will look to its pack to set a platform, just as the eight big men did at Invercargill. Every forward played his part, playing with total commitment and not doing anything less than his best. Craig Clarke is always in that boat, and it's a nice thing to see a trooper get a reward like the Shield for years of honest toil. Scott Waldrom is another who has put a lot into the provincial game and, in particular, the one down south. The pair both have big jobs on Sunday, and you know both will be up for it. Tyson Keats is another who will be more than ready for this game and the tougher it is, the better he will like it. He has shown the ability to perform under pressure and there will be plenty of that around the stadium. Bryn Evans will be a key figure for Hawke's Bay, not only for his accurate lineout work but also for the skill and leadership he brings to the game. He has been in fine form this season and carries a big burden this time. The same goes for Karl Lowe, who is again proving how good a player he is on a weekly basis. He's fast, strong over the ball and a skilful link – just the sort of bloke who can have a real go with Waldrom. In the backline a lot will revolve around Andrew Horrell, who has played well all year and kicked for goal with great accuracy (131 points at 80 percent). The Magpies need him in the game and he needs to control it as best he can.
WE THINK: It is always hard picking the Shield to move on, even in such a tough first defence. Taranaki may have to come down off the high of winning it but, with a short turnaround, it may not be too far to get back up there – and thousands of fans cramming the park will help. Both sides will fancy their chances, but Taranaki might just have enough – no more than one score – to hold the Log for the summer.
Taranaki: 1. Michael Bent, 2. Laurence Corlett, 3. Shane Cleaver, 4. Jason Eaton, 5. Craig Clarke (capt), 6. Jarrad Hoeata, 7. Scott Waldrom, 8. Ben Souness, 9. Tyson Keats, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. Frazier Climo, 12. Jayden Hayward, 13. Willie Rickards, 14. Jackson Ormond, 15. Andre Taylor.
Reserves: 16. Timo Tutavaha, 17. Carl Carmichael, 18. James Broadhurst, 19. Samuela Vunisa, 20. Brett Goodin, 21. Jack Cameron, 22. Kurt Baker, 23. Willie Ioane.
Hawke's Bay: 1. Kas Lealamanua, 2. Hikairo Forbes, 3. Ben Tameifuna, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Bryn Evans (capt), 6. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 7. Adam Bradey, 8. Karl Lowe, 9. Chris Eaton, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 11. Gillies Kaka, 12. Andrew Horrell, 13. Tu Umaga-Marshall, 14. Richard Buckman, 15. Mark Jackman.
Reserves: 16. Danny Logan, 17. Brendon Edmonds, 18. Maselino Paulino, 19. Hugh Reed, 20. Isaac Paewai, 21. Tua Saseve, 22. Sinoti Sinoti, 23. Jody Allen.
REFEREE: Mike Fraser