Monday, April 02, 2007

NPC: Air New Zealand Cup Final

October 19, 2006

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NPC Air New Zealand Cup Final: WAIKATO vs WELLINGTON

Getting an early start on the NPC final coverage between Waikato and Wellington. The game is too close for me to call.

This entry will be updated over the next 36 hours to bring all the preview hoopla of the big game.

You can start with the earlier posting about Waikato lock Keith Robinson's remarkable comeback;

Then go straight to BartMan's match preview at the Silver Fern.

Stay tuned for more...


Rugby Planet has their preview up and runs with an eye-opening prediction. Excerpt:

Players to watch:

For Waikato: Finals require a 15-man effort to reach the dream of lifting the Cup, which makes pointing the finger at a single player extremely tough going. So let's look for a game breaker. Someone that can turn on the magic when you least expect it, someone that you know will be on hand to finish off every move. There are quite a few in this Mooloo line-up, but the one person that automatically come to mind is fullback Mils Muliaina. The All Black star is on top form at the moment and will easily get our vote as an IRB Player of the Year. He's got pace to burn, eyes like a hawk and hands like glue.

For Wellington Lions: Again this is tricky, tricky, tricky! The door is wide open for anyone's vote, but someone needs to take the responsiblity. After much deliberating, it was decided that Tana Umaga is and always will be the gamebreaker in any side he plays for. It's also probably going to be the last time we get to mention his name in a New Zealand team for a while, at worst, never again! Captain courageous still has the firepower to take on anyone up for the dreaded challenge of marking this dread-locked warrior. His leadership is second to none, as is his status in the eys of the opposition. He scored a crucial touchdown against Auckland in the semi-final at Eden Park and will strive to score as well as set up more on Saturday.

Head-to-head: One can't deny that the final will count as a mini trial run for All Black selectors to choose from or help make up their minds on key positions. One of those positions is scrum-half where New Zealand have always been spoilt for choice over the years. Waikato's Byron Kelleher and Wellington's Peeri Weepu will be out to prove that the No.9 jersey belongs to them and them only. Waikato and Wellington's forwards and backs alike are well matched, it's the men in the middle that makes sure they get the ball to perform. Shut down the provider and reap the awards. That's what the two half-backs will be looking to do to each other.

Prediction: Oh how easy it would be to just call it a draw. To share the trophy over a couple of beers seems the easiest thing to do, but that's for football - this is rugby. Everyone wants to see a winner. The trophy is going to live either in Waikato or Wellington for the next year. Could home advantage prove to be the decider for a sold out Waikato Stadium? Or could the hungry Lions overcome their last visit to Hamilton and pull one back on their North Island rivals? We are backing Wellington to come out with all guns blazing and give New Zealand's old golden child Tana Umaga a proper send-off. Wellington to win by 15+ points.

The teams:

Waikato: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Sosene Anesi, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 David Hill, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Byron Kelleher; 8 Sione Laukai, 7 Marty Holah, 6 Steven Bates (c), 5 Keith Robinson, 4, Jono Gibbes, 3 Nathan White, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Craig West.
Replacements: 16 Scott Linklater, 17 Aled de Malmanche, 18 Toby Lynn, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Dwayne Sweeney, 22 Roy Kiniknilau

Wellington: 15 Shannon Paku, 14 Ma'a Nonu, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Tana Umaga (c), 11 Cory Jane, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So'oialo, 7 Ben Herring, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Luke Andrews, 4 Ross Filipo, 3 Neemia Tialata / John Schwalger, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Joe McDonnell. Reserves: 16 Luke Mahoney, 17 John Schwalger / Anthony Perenise, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Miah Nikora, 22 Lome Fa'atau.

Date: Saturday, 22 October
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19:35 NZT (07:35 GMT / 02:35 ET)
Referee: Bryce Lawrence
Touch judges: Kelvin Deaker, Gary Wise
Television match official: Keith Brown
Assessor: Stuart Beissel, Glenn Wahlstrom

Source: Rugby Planet.

John Drake at the New Zealand Herald:

[I]t is all set up for a special final. ...

I think Wellington have a slight edge with personnel and momentum.

The home ground and mental toughness of the likes of Willis, Jono Gibbes, Robinson and Muliaina may be enough to prove me wrong.

Matt Brown has his "rugby-centric analysis" up:

Maybe I’m just an eternal optimist when it comes to championship matches but I really think that this one has all the makings of a classic! Both teams have a substantial amount of momentum heading into the Final, both are at full strength, and neither has won a title recently. Add into the mix that there are All Blacks Tour places up for grabs amongst the participants and we should see some outstanding fireworks at Waikato Stadium on Saturday.

Brown also has a video preview up, and a good dose of head-to-head match-ups. Check it out.

Mediazone Rugby Channel has live online broadcast of the Waikato vs. Wellington NPC Air New Zealand Cup Final starting at 02:35 AM ET (Saturday, October 21, 2006).


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