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After narrow back to back losses against Waikato and Counties Manukau, the Auckland Gulls got back to winning ways last weekend, when they overcame the Bay of Plenty in a thrilling encounter by 44-38. That result, as close as it was, pushed the Gulls back into the top four of the 2016 ITM Cup Premiership Division. Their hold on a play-off position, is still extremely fragile, however. They have collected 22 points from their seven fixtures, which gives them a slender three point advantage over Waikato, and four over Tasman, who have a game in hand.
On Saturday, Auckland play host to the Otago Razorbacks at Eden Park. The Razorbacks are top of the Championship table and suffered just their first defeat of the season last weekend, when they travelled to Christchurch and put up a fine performance before finally succumbing to Canterbury 34-45. That defeat allowed their nearest challengers, the Wellington Lions to close the gap at the top to six points, with a game in hand. Although Otago are now certain of their place in the play-offs, whatever happens during the remainder of the regular season, they will still want to finish at the top of the pile, and secure home advantage through the knockout phase.
Posted: 13th September 2015
Auckland have looked one of the most promising teams in the first month of the 2015 ITM Cup, but whether they have sufficient experience to go with that promise and present a true title challenge remains to be seen. On Sunday they will welcome Championship strugglers Otago to Eden Park, as they seek a third successive victory, since surrendering their long standing unbeaten record at Sunday's venue to their great rivals from Canterbury. The Seagulls are currently in third place, and with a trip to Blenheim in Week 6 to face table topping Tasman in front of them, they will be eager to secure a maximum five points this weekend. Otago have managed just one win this season, but are only three points adrift of fourth place in the Championship table, and with two games in hand on Southland.
However, Auckland boast one of the most productive attacks in the Premiership, with 20 tries to their credit, while Otago have a defence that has given up 18 tries in four fixtures. All adding up to suggest that Auckland will maintain the pressure on the top sides in the Premiership, Tasman and Canterbury, with a five point full house haul.
, ITM Cup
, Eden Park