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PREVIEW: Taranaki v Tasman (Semi-final)

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Friday, October 21, 2016    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Form: Taranaki go into the final having lost only two games in the regular season, but one of them was to Tasman (20-25) and the other was to Canterbury (34-39). They drew their Ranfurly Shield challenge with Waikato 20-20 but have finished with wins over Wellington (54-31) and Auckland (35-32). Tasman also suffered two losses and a draw, the losses being to Canterbury (14-45) and Otago (27-30) while they drew with North Harbour (27-27). They achieved a first win in Auckland (49-31) and beat Southland (56-0) in their last game.

Played: 13

Wins: Taranaki 9, Tasman 4

Last match: Taranaki 20 Tasman 25 (Nelson 2016)

Teams:

Taranaki: 1.Mitchell Graham, 2.Rhys Marshall, 3.Ryan Cocker/Reuben O'Neill, 4.Ben Matwijow, 5.Leighton Price, 6.Mitchell Brown, 7.Mitchell Crosswell, 8.Toa Halafihi, 9.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 10.Marty McKenzie, 11.Latu Vaeno, 12.Jahnny Fa'auli, 13.Seta Tamanivalu, 14.Declan O'Donnell, 15.Stephen Perofeta.

Substitutes: 16.Sione Lea, 17.Jared Proffit, 18.Cocker/O'Neill, 19.Iopu Iopu-Aso, 20.Lachlan Boshier, 21.Cody Whittaker, 22.Sean Wainui, 23.Waisake Naholo.

Tasman: 1.Tim Perry, 2.Jesse MacDonald, 3.Ross Geldenhuys, 4.Alex Ainley, 5.Pari Pari Parkinson, 6.Tevita Koloamatangi, 7.Shane Christie, 8.Peter Samu, 9.Billy Guyton, 10.Marty Banks, 11.James Lowe, 12.David Havili, 13.Kieron Fonotia, 14.Viliami Lolohea, 15.Mitchell Hunt.

Substitutes: 16.Brendan Asomua-Goodman, 17.Kane Hames, 18.Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19.Shannon Frizzell, 20.Ethan Blackadder, 21.Finlay Christie, 22.Alex Nankivell, 23.Caleb Makene.

Squad Update: Taranaki have had a boost to their firepower with wing Waisake Naholo returning to the side from the All Blacks for some match time. With him and centre Seta Tamanivalu the side is well set out wide. Captain Mitchell Crosswell has no concussion concerns while Latu Vaeno has won the left wing berth ahead of Beaudein Waaka.Tasman will be without hooker Andrew Makalio who has broken his hand, the fifth suffered by the side in the campaign. That will see Jesse MacDonald start and Brendan Asomua-Goodman coming into the substitutes. Lock Quinten Strange could not be considered due to concussion with Pari Pari Parkinson stepping up to the role. Although first five-eighths Marty Banks also has hand issues he has returned to start with Mitchell Hunt, his replacement last week, returning to fullback.

Key Players: It is the equality in standards in their respective forward packs that has seen contests between these two sides be so close in recent years. Clearly dominance up front goes a long way towards success and it will be a battle to gain that advantage on Sunday. Hard men among the visitors like lock Alex Ainley, and props Tim Perry and Ross Geldenhuys are matched among the home side by front rowers Mitchell Graham and Rhys Marshall. While in the loose, the Taranaki trio headed by skipper Mitchell Crosswell with Mitchell Brown and Toa Halafihi are comparable with Shane Christie, Peter Samu and Tevita Koloamatangi for Tasman. And then there are the first five-eighths and goal-kickers, who may well decide the outcome, Marty McKenzie for Taranaki and Marty Banks for Tasman. If there is to be a point of difference it may be the Tasman rearguard of fullback Mitchell Hunt, the left wing James Lowe and the midfield of David Havili and Keiron Fonotia.