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Crossover preview: Auckland v Waikato

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Thursday August 30, 7.35pm at Eden Park, Auckland
Referee: James Munro (Canterbury)
Played: 142 (1922-2017)
Wins: Auckland 96, Waikato 41, Drawn 5
Last match: Waikato 35 Auckland 27 (August 30, 2017)


TALE OF THE TAPE

Two great provincial rivals again lock horns for the Stan Thomas Memorial Trophy, a crossover fixture for the first time.

Waikato fans of a certain age will well recall the famous wins at Eden Park in 1980, 1992 and ’93, but those same fans will be hurting that it is exactly one year ago that the Mooloos recorded their last victory, a 35-27 result against the Auks here.

Waikato will want to tighten up its defence. The Mooloos do not want a repeat of the corresponding fixture in 2014, in which they missed 47 tackles on Auckland, 15 of them on George Moala alone.
 
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JUICY MATCH-UP

Watch Melani Nanai on the Auckland right wing versus Sevu Reece on the Waikato left wing.

Both are in tip-top form, Nanai has scored three tries – two against Northland, and it could have been a hat-trick – and running for 163m in his two games. Reece made a searing break against North Harbour and has racked up 178m in his two outings. Just five players in the competition have run for more.


THE INSIDE WORD

Auckland is making baby steps towards being the team it wants to be, but it helps to have banked nine of a possible 10 competition points.

The second half against the Taniwha last Sunday was the benchmark for Auckland and coach Alama Ieremia knows it.

“We made adjustments at halftime and I was really proud of the boys for that. Our lineout
defence and scrum were a lot more solid, which was pleasing. In terms of attack, we made better decisions that allowed us to move the ball a lot quicker,” he says.


THE SCOOP

Auckland will enter as favourite, but virtue of its 2-0 record and a 28-12 win in Whangarei.
Alama Ieremia’s charges have yet to hit their straps, but they defended well in the second stanza against Northland. The bench looks full of impact, with the likes of Hoskins Sotutu and Caleb Clarke in the high numbers.

Waikato may be winless, but Jono Gibbes’ men are not far off the pace, and with an ounce of luck could well have beaten North Harbour last Saturday. Gibbes has rung the changes, handing former Wallaby Toby Smith a start at loosehead prop and using the precocious talent that is Quinn Tupaea off the pine. Fletcher Smith moves to pivot.


TEAMS
Auckland:
Jordan Trainor, Melani Nanai, Tumua Manu, TJ Faiane, Salesi Rayasi, Harry Plummer, Leon Fukofuka, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson (c), Dalton Papali’i, Jack Whetton, Fa’atiga Lemalu, Marcel Renata, Robbie Abel, Sam Prattley
Reserves: Mike Sosene, Jarred Adams, Marco Fepulea’i, Evan Olmstead, Hoskins Sotutu, Jonathan Ruru, Jacob Umaga, Caleb Clarke

Waikato: Tyler Campbell, Mosese Dawai, Bailyn Sullivan, Dwayne Sweeney (c), Sevu Reece, Fletcher Smith, Jack Stratton, Jordan Manihera, Jahrome Brown, Adam Burn, Laghlan McWhannell, Tim Bond, Joshua Iosefa-Scott, Mike Mayhew, Toby Smith
Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Ayden Johnstone, Sosaia Fale, James Tucker, Jono Armstrong, Kylem O’Donnell, Matty Lansdown, Quinn Tupaea