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PREVIEW: North Harbour v Northland

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: North Harbour v Northland, QBE Stadium, Albany, Thursday, 7.35pm

Last time:
Northland 22-31 North Harbour, Whangarei, September 14, 2017

FORM
North Harbour finished third in the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership last season going down in the semifinals to Canterbury, the eventual winners 35-24. North Harbour, after their best season for several years finished fourth in the Championship also losing to the eventual winners Wellington 49-21.

LOOSIES STRONG
Having been boosted by the return home of All Black and Highlanders flanker Dillon Hunt, North Harbour have assembled an impressive loose forward combination. Blindside flanker Glenn Preston and No.8 Murphy Taramai had time with the Blues this season, and after the latter two performed well for North Harbour last season, they are shaping as a formidable unit with Hunt. Given the ability on show in the North Harbour backline that could be a great asset. And with halfback Bryn Hall having had such an impact in two seasons with the Crusaders there should be plenty of continuity between forwards and backs to make the most of opportunities.
EARLY TEST
Auckland-born but Australian performed first five-eighths Jack Debreczeni, possibly the tallest player in his position in the world game at 1.93m (6ft 4in) will have an early taste of the New Zealand provincial scene with Northland, and up against one of the better opponents on show in the competition, Bryn Gatland. Just how much influence the experienced Debreczeni will have will depend on the quality of ball his pack can provide. There are some useful performers with lock Josh Goodhue, flanker Kara Pryor and hooker Matt Moulds all with a taste of Super Rugby to call on but it is the support they get that will be crucial for Northland in this traditional derby.
THE SCOOP
Fireworks could be in store if both sides get the ball to their wings in Albany. The home team has All Black Matt Duffie and former NZ Under-20s star Tevita Li while Northland have former All Black Rene Ranger and the man who made an immediate impact with the Blues this year when called in as a replacement, Jordan Hyland.

TEAMS

North Harbour:
1.Nic Mayhew, 2.James Parsons (captain), 3.Sione Mafileo, 4.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5.Ben Nee-Nee, 6.Glenn Preston, 7.Dillon Hunt, 8.Murphy Taramai, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Bryn Gatland, 11.Tevita Li, 12.Harrison Groundwater, 13.James Dargaville, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Shaun Stevenson.

Substitutes: 16.Loteru Tolai, 17.Mike Tamoaieta, 18.Chris Eves, 19.Jacob Pierce, 20.Sione Teu, 21.Gjaltema Lewis, 22.Loketi Manu, 23.Mark Telea.

Northland: 1.Ross Wright, 2.Matt Moulds, 3.Jack Straker, 4.Tom Robinson, 5.Josh Goodhue, 6.Murray Douglas, 7.Kara Pryor, 8.Jaycob Matiu, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Jack Debreczeni, 11.Rene Ranger, 12.Blake Hohaia, 13.Tamati Tua, 14.Jordan Hyland, 15.Matty Wright.

Substitutes: 16.Jordan Olsen, 17.Isifeli Tu'ungafasi, 18.Ropate Rinakama, 19.Kane Jacobson, 20.Matt Matich, 21.Jono Kitto, 22.Myles Thoroughgood, 23.Scott Gregory.