Sportal.co.nz 13.Oct.2012Getty Images
VENUE & TIME: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, Saturday October 13 @ 1735
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 46; Waikato 24, Hawke's Bay 20, drawn 2.
LAST TIME: September 11, 2010 (Napier) -Hawke's Bay 27-27 Waikato.
WALKING WOUNDED: To nobody's surprise all the Waikato replacements who played against Counties-Manukau last week have been replaced by the regulars again, and this team has only one change (Joe Webber for Tim Mikkelson) from the one that thrashed Taranaki to claim the Shield. Hawke's Bay had its injury issues going back to at least the Manawatu match. The final team actually shows only one change from the side that played Canterbury, with Hika Elliot replacing Ash Dixon at hooker.
Round 5: lost to Wellington 13-29 (a)
Round 6: lost to Canterbury 27-52 (h)
Round 7: beat Tasman 20-19 (h)
Round 8: beat Taranaki 46-10 (a, RS)
Round 9: beat Counties-Manukau 32-28 (a)
Round 5: lost to Southland 7-35 (a)
Round 6: beat Bay of Plenty 42-41 (h)
Round 7: beat Otago 21-15 (h)
Round 8: lost to Manawatu 7-20 (a)
Round 9: lost to Canterbury 3-44 (h)
Waikato made a huge number of changes from the team that had won the Shield for the Pukekohe match, and burgled a very impressive win. Counties should have locked the match away early but errors and missed chances left the door ajar; when Waikato got a sniff they also got on a roll and turned a 10-25 deficit into a 32-38 win inside 20 minutes. The few remaining veterans were at the heart of the performance, but the many new faces supplied plenty of energy and enthusiasm.
Hawke's Bay was always unlikely to beat Canterbury and after a good initial quarter normal service was resumed. A botched lineout gifted Canterbury an easy try to get started and they added another two before halftime, while the game lost all shape and the spectators lost all interest after the break as Canterbury kept scoring points, the scrums remained a shambles and Hawke's Bay never looked like winning. In the end it was simply a case of how much. Answer: 44-3.
WHO'S HOT: After letting all the regulars get over the Shield win and running out a team that showed 17 changes at Pukekohe (where they still burgled an unlikely win), Waikato has gone back to its top XV for this match. That includes Toby Smith, who has been very solid in the front row with his powerful scrummaging and often dynamic ball-running. He is a reliable guy who will give a good performance. Zack Hohneck was a pest during the Shield challenge, regularly getting in Taranaki faces and then rubbing them in the dirt. Waikato owned the breakdown, and their openside was central to it all. There were a lot of good performers in the Waikato backline but perhaps the most impressive -or most surprising -was Sam Christie at first-five. He hadn't enjoyed the best of years and had been benched for recent games, but came back very strongly with a commanding all-round game that sparked a lot of Waikato's best play.
Hawke's Bay's problems this season can be summed up by looking at the confused week-to-week selection. There are multiple changes every week and a 2012 All Black, Hika Elliot, does not get to start in the biggest matches -he's worn No 16 against both Auckland and Canterbury. He's playing well when given the chance and is one of the best and most reliable Magpie forwards, so what's with the in-and-out selection? To be blunt, it's not as if Hawke's Bay has two hookers of equal calibre available. It goes right across the board; two of the best backs, Andrew Horrell and Gillies Kaka, have filled a variety of jerseys this season and done all they could in any one of them but neither has a settled position or settled combinations to work with. For all the talent available, Hawke's Bay has turned in a poor year and they sit where they do on merit.
WE THINK: If Waikato can recapture half the passion they showed at New Plymouth, they'll do this easily. Too often this season Hawke's Bay has played like a team in disarray and there doesn't seem to be much confidence in the camp either; it's hard to see where they might have the winning of the game. Waikato should have that winning in several areas; one or two will be enough but if they get it all right it could get ugly for the visitors.
Waikato: 1. Toby Smith, 2. Marcel Cummings-Toone, 3. Ben May, 4. Sam Kilgour, 5. Romana Graham, 6. Matt Vant Leven, 7. Zack Hohneck, 8. Alex Bradley (capt), 9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 10. Sam Christie, 11. Joe Webber, 12. Jackson Willison, 13. Save Tokula, 14. Declan O'Donnell, 15. Trent Renata.
Reserves: 16. Vance Elliott, 17 Latu Talakai or Ted Tauroa, 18. Anthony Wise, 19. Rory Grice, 20. Brendon Leonard, 21. Piers Francis, 22. Navi Sikivou.
Hawke's Bay: 1. Brendon Edmonds, 2. Hika Elliot, 3. Peter Borlase, 4. Ross Kennedy, 5. Maselino Paulino, 6. Trent Boswell-Wakefield, 7. Tivaini Fomai, 8. Karl Lowe (capt), 9. Isaac Paewai, 10. Ihaia West, 11. Penikolo Latu, 12. Andrew Horrell, 13. Marvin Karawana, 14. Maritino Nemani, 15. Gillies Kaka.
Reserves: 16. Ash Dixon, 17. Jody Allen, 18. Johan Schoonbee, 19. Adam Bradey, 20. Michael Ruru, 21. Star Timu, 22. Bronson Neera.
REFEREE: Jonathan White