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CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW: Northland v Manawatu

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Thursday, September 13, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Northland v Manawatu, 5.45pm Friday 14 September, Toll Stadium, Whangarei

Played: 32 (1952-2017)
Won: Northland 17, Manawatu 13, Drawn 2
Last time: Manawatu 39, Northland 25 (22 September 2017)
Referee: Michael Winter

FORM
Althought both teams have registered just one win each, they have been better than their position on the ladder suggests. Northland’s best performance so far this season came in knocking off Premiership heavyweights Taranaki 18-17 at home. Manawatu’s sole victory came in round one over Waikato but looked promising against Canterbury last week before sucumbing 34-23 to the defeding Premiership champions. 

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BLACK’S BACK
In a huge boost for the Manawatu Turbos, Otere Black has been named on the bench and is set for his first game since injurying his knee during the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup. At full-fitness, Black is one of the premier pivots in the competition and Turbos fans will be eagerly watching to see whether he can come through his first taste of rugby in almost a year unscathed.

MIDFIELD RUMBLE

The clash between centres Rob Thompson and Rene Ranger could prove crucial in this match. Ranger has been at his game-breaking and electric best in 2018 but will face an equally dangerous threat in Manawatu’s Rob Thompson. The Turbos dynamo as made 15 clean breaks this season – more than any other player in the competition. While renowned for his attacking ability, Ranger will need to be at the top of his defensive game to contain Thompson.
FAST FACT (Opta)
Manawatu lost to Northland 77-8 in Round 2, 2010, but have since won seven games on the bounce against them.

THE SCOOP
This is a tough one to pick. Two very evenly matched teams with a lot to play for. Manawatu have the wood on Northland in recent history but that will mean nothing in Whangarei. As Taranaki found out recently, it’s tough work getting a victory over the Taniwha in the far north and Manawatu will have to be at their very best if they are to come away with the points.

TEAMS:
Manawatu:
15 Junior Laloifi, 14 James Tofa, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Mike Tagicakibau, 10 Sam Malcolm, 9 Kayne Hammington; 8 Brice Henderson, 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri (captain), 6 Liam Mitchell, 5 Brad Tucker, 4 Nick Crosswell, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Tim Cadwallader, 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Subs: 16 Sam Stewart, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Sione Asi, 19 Sam Slade, 20 Adrian Wyrill; 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Otere Black, 23 Hamish Northcott.

Northland: 15 Matty Wright, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rene Ranger, 12, Blake Hohaia, 11 Scott Gregory, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Jono Kitto; 8 Matt Matich, 7 Kane Jacobson, 6 Kara Pryor, 5 Tom Robinson, 4 Josh Goodhue, 3 Ropate Rinakama, 2 Jordan Olsen (captain), 1 Ross Wright.
Subs: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Isikeli Tuúngafasi, 18 Jack Straker, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Jaycob Matiu, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Myles Thoroughgood, 23 Noah Cooper.