PREVIEW: Northland v North Harbour

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Northland v North Harbour, Toll Stadium, Whangarei, Thursday, 7.35pm
Northland have made three changes from their win over Waikato. Matty Wright had been named at fullback but was forced out due to illness so Solomon Alaimalo moves from the right wing back to fullback with Jordan Hyland on the wing. Making his first appearance for the year will be No.8 Jaycob Matiu in place of Matt Matich. On the bench first five-eighths Peter Breen has recovered from a calf muscle injury while Michael Faleafa is named as loose forward cover. North Harbour have returned their side to close to full strength with Matt Duffie back on the right wing.

Played: 38
Wins: Northland 12, North Harbour 24, Draws 2
Last time: Northland 28 North Harbour 44, Whangarei 2016

Fielding Crusaders Super Rugby title winner Jack Goodhue at second five-eighths and with former All Black Rene Ranger at centre, Northland have the benefit of an experienced pair who, while they may still be developing their combination, are capable of destroying any opposition with their running ability. The less experienced North Harbour pair of Harrison Groundwater and Matt Vaega have proven sound in games to date but will face one of their toughest tests to date in what is shaping as one of several intriguing contests across both sides.

There is a remarkable similarity in statistics between the two sides. North Harbour have posted 16 tries to date on the back of 46 clean breaks and 82 defenders beaten. They have made 480 carries but conceded 74 turnovers and missed 65 tackles for a tackle rate of 86.2 percent. Northland have also scored 16 tries and made 48 clean breaks while beating 110 defenders. With 520 carries they have conceded 75 turnovers while their 64 missed tackles have resulted in a tackle rate of 88.8 percent. Northland have shown a greater capacity for beating opponents but have not managed the slightly better execution of chances that North Harbour have achieved. In the comparison between the respective first five-eighths, Dan Hawkins for Northland and Bryn Gatland for North Harbour, Gatland has scored 51 points to 28. Gatland has made more carries with 26-20 but Hawkins has made more metres with 83-72, he has also beaten eight defenders to three by Gatland. Hawkins has made 81 passes to 64 while Gatland has made 40 open play kicks as opposed to 11 by the Northlander. Gatland's tackle success rate is 93.9 percent while Hawkins is on 87.5 percent. They are close in goal-kicking percentages with Hawkins on 70.6 percent and Gatland marginally better on 71.4 percent.


Northland: 1.Ross Wright, 2.Matt Moulds, 3.Ropate Rinakama, 4.Murray Douglas, 5.Tim Bond, 6.Jack Ram, 7.Dan Pryor, 8.Jaycob Matiu, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Dan Hawkins, 11.Jone Macilai, 12.Jack Goodhue, 13.Rene Ranger, 14.Jordan Hyland, 15.Solomon Alaimalo.

Substitutes: 16.Jordan Olsen, 17.Howard Sililoto, 18.Phil Kite, 19.Josh Larsen, 20.Michael Faleafa, 21.Matty Markwick, 22.Peter Breen, 23.Blake Hohaia.

North Harbour: 1.Chris Eves, 2.James Parsons (captain), 3.Sione Mafileo, 4. Jarrad Hoeata, 5.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 6.Glenn Preston, 7.Murphy Taramai, 8. Hapakuki Moala-Liavaa, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Bryn Gatland, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Harrison Groundwater, 13.Matt Vaega, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Shaun Stevenson.

Substitutes: 16.Steven Misa, 17.Karl Tuinukuage, 18. Michael Tamoeaieta, 19.Brandon Nansen, 20.Collett Connor, 21.Chris Smylie, 22.Shaun Treeby, 23.Ben Volavola.