North Harbour v Otago Live

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North Harbour                          Otago
Thursday 1st October 06:35 GMT


Although it is mathematically possible for any one of four teams in the ITM Cup Championship division to snatch one of the two available play-off positions, Hawkes bay and Wellington are already certain of the other two post-season places, last week's results went some considerable way to sorting out the various permutations.

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Otago who visit Albany to take on North Harbour in Thursday Evening, thrashed Southland by 61-7, posting eight tries, as they moved four points clear of the Stags, and with a game in hand. A win in Albany will ensure the Razorbacks a semi-final spot. North Harbour were badly beaten in Palmerston North by Premiership strugglers Manawatu, and as the result slipped seven points off of the fourth qualifying position.

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This was a third successive loss for Harbour, all to Premiership teams, since they beat Counties 28-20. Nothing less than victory against Otago will keep their season alive going into the final week of the 2015 season. Meetings between these two sides have a habit of being high scoring encounters, with the last five fixtures producing an average score of 37-25 in favour of Otago, who have won all four meetings, since Harbour won by 35-23 in Albany in 2010.

Posted: 5th October 2013


North Harbour may still have slim ambitions to make the ITM Cup Championship play-offs this season, but they will need to defeat Otago on Saturday Evening in Albany, if they are to keep those ambitions alive for at least another week. While Otago despite a stuttering season, can take a giant step towards clinching a semi-final spot with a victory, where they would realistically believe their own rivals are Manawatu. However, North Harbour will have to achieve victory without a number of players integral to their team, due to injury. Ben Afeaki is a long term absentee, while also joining him on the unavailable list, is lock Chris Smith and wing David Raikuna.

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On the other hand, Otago are able to welcome back Paul Grant, who will lead the side, after suffering a bruised leg, which forced him to miss the Southland fixture. Another change to the forwards, see Lee Allan brought in to replace Hugh Blake. Tony Ensor returns at full back after an absence due to a dislocated shoulder. Craig Millar was forced to leave the field against Southland with a leg injury, but has been named in the starting XV. North Harbour might just sense a chance of victory, as they will be tackling an Otago side with only one win from their last five matches, a 52-41 win over Manawatu.

Tags: ITM Cup, North Harbour, Otago, Ben Afeaki, David Raikuna, Hugh Blake, Tony Ensor
Posted: 1st October 2015

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