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The Waikato Stadium will stage one of the most important games of the 2015 ITM Cup season so far on Friday Evening, when Waikato welcome their neighbours Counties-Manukau. The winners will ease themselves far enough away from the Premiership relegation position, currently occupied by Manawatu, while the losers will go into the final week of the regular season, with their destiny still undecided.
Counties produced a stunning win in Pukekohe last week against Tasman, a win that has affected their opponents bid to top the regular season table, but which also raised their own hopes considerably of avoiding the drop to the Championship for 2016. This was a second successive win for Counties Manukau, having previously crushed Northland, having managed just one win in their first six outings of the 2015 season. Having won two of their first three matches, the Mooloos have won just one of their last five games as they have slipped into a desperate fight against relegation.
With their final game of the season being away to Hawke's Bay, the Waikato Mooloos will be anxious to put more distance between themselves and Manawatu, the gap currently being just two points. What might go in their favour should they fail to handle Counties big ball-carriers, is that Manawatu finish their own campaign with fixtures against in form Taranaki, and Wellington who are chasing top spot in the Championship.
Posted: 14th September 2014
The Waikato v Counties Manukau clash on Sunday at the Waikato Stadium is a must win fixture for both sides, if they are to have any realistic hope of securing a top four finish, and therefore a place in the end of season play-offs, and a challenge for the 2014 ITM Cup title. Taranaki's stunning 31-30 win against Tasman, has made it appear more likely than ever, that those two sides, along with Canterbury will fill three of the top positions in the table at the end of the season. It is therefore. Up to Sunday's protagonists to chase Auckland for the final spot.
Last time out, Waikato slipped to defeat to Tasman, thanks to a last-minute try from prop Siua Halanukonuka, which left the final score 16-23. While Counties were beaten by the top of the Championship table, Manawatu 26-10. While Waikato have been inconsistent through the 2014 campaign, they have looked dangerous on the counter attack, and with Counties looking flat, and unable to retain the ball well against the Turbos, they may provide their hosts with the type of ball with which they can do the most damage.
A home win will put some daylight between Waikato and Counties, who sit just one place above bottom-placed Wellington, and probably effectively knock them out of the running for a lay-off position.
Tags: Waikato Stadium
, ITM Cup
, Counties Manukau