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Championship preview: Manawatu v Otago

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Friday, August 31, 2018    Campbell Burnes    Getty Images

Match details: Saturday September 1, 5.05pm at Central Energy Trust Arena, Palmerston North
Referee: Paul Williams (Taranaki)
Played: 42 (1905-2017)
Wins: Otago 22, Manawatu 14, Drawn 6
Last time: Otago 40 Manawatu 30 (September 2, 2017)


TALE OF THE TAPE

Recent history for what that is worth, is on Otago’s side, as they have won five of the last six between these two unions.

That obviously includes last year’s 40-30 victory in Dunedin, when wing Jona Nareki scored a hat-trick.

It is two years since the Turbos last recorded consecutive home wins, but they will fancy their chances of breaking that streak after a fine opening round win over Waikato. That was tempered, however by the disappointment of last Friday’s Shield challenge against Taranaki.
 
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JUICY MATCH-UP

We thought about the dynamic Junior Laloifi against the Otago captain Michael Collins at fullback, or even Nehe Milner-Skudder versus Nareki, but have opted to highlight the battle of the opensides, Antonio Kirikiri against Naulia Dawai.

Both players know their way to the tryline, but Kirikiri, the Turbos captain, is more of a fetcher than his counterpart. Dawai is back after missing the 2017 season as he was plying his trade in Ireland, but is a strong carrier in an under-rated Otago pack.


THE SCOOP

Manawatu may be favourites, especially at home, but Otago can call on three internationals off the pine – All Blacks hooker Liam Coltman and Manu Samoa reps Donald Brighouse and Melani Matavao. That may be telling in the second spell.

Josh Ioane has looked good at pivot thus far for Otago, so how he involves the speedsters Vili Koroi and Nareki, the latter outstanding in the 2017 fixture, may be instructive.

The visitors have a very solid scrum, which has seen them win every engagement on their ball this season.

Midfielder Rob Thompson and the Turbos bring an offloading style that is not always easy to combat, so Otago will need to be defensively savvy.

Turbos lock Tom Hughes, who has previously represented Manawatu, wins his first start after being loaned from Canterbury. He will try and shut out the likes of Josh Dickson in the Otago engine room.

Might it come down to a goalkicking shootout between the No 10s – Ioane of Otago and Te Rure of Manawatu?


TEAMS
Manawatu:
Junior Laloifi, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Rob Thompson, Hamish Northcott, James Tofa, Jade Te Rure, Jamie Booth, Brice Henderson, Antonio Kirikiri (c), Liam Mitchell, Tom Hughes, Nick Crosswell, Michael Alaalatoa, Tim Cadwallader, Fraser Armstrong
Reserves: Sam Stewart, Faalelei Sione, Sione Asi, Samuel Slade, Brad Tucker, Kayne Hammington, Sam Malcolm, Lifeimi Mafi

Otago: Michael Collins (c), Vilimoni Koroi, Sio Tomkinson, Matt Whaanga, Jona Nareki, Josh Ioane, Kurt Hammer, Dylan Nel, Naulia Dawai, Sione Misiloi, Josh Dickson, Tom Rowe, Hisa Sasagi, Seko Pole, Aki Seiuli
Reserves: Liam Coltman, Tom Hill, Donald Brighouse, Joketani Koroi, Slade McDowall, Melani Matavao, Matt Faddes, Mitchell Scott