ITM Cup semi-finals were exciting with three matches having tight finishes, while there was something strange at seeing Canterbury knocked out at such an early stage. All four home teams won which restores your faith in the finals format.
Most tipsters picked the first three winners, with Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu and Taranaki winning in three cliffhangers, but the Tasman vs Canterbury game split the tipsters and was crucial.
58 percent of tipsters picked Tasman, while the others are either Canterbury fans, keep thinking Canterbury is the team which dominated the last decade and know how to win finals footy, or were simply desperate to catch the leaders in their conference. Unfortunately this backfired with the four home teams winning and those who picked these results laughing all the way to the bank with a Grand Slam Bonus Point, which is a bit generous really!
There are now only two games left. The good thing for people needing a miracle is that both of the finals are tough to pick, with all four teams a genuine chance of winning their respective titles. The Premiership final is between Taranaki and Tasman, while the ITM Cup Championship final is between Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay.
The All Blacks squad is due to be named for the 2014 Northern Hemisphere Autumn Tour. This tour includes a game in the USA enroute to Europe. Who would you pick in the All Blacks 32 man squad?
There are already some exclusions with injuries ruling out Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tony Woodcock and Maá Nonu, while Luke Romano and Dan Carter are in a race against time to be fit for the tour.
Sonny Bill Williams is a definite inclusion in this squad, but spaces in the All Blacks backline are limited. The All Blacks selectors may even do what they did with Japan recently and select some young players for the test match against USA only, although I would rather see the young blood given some time against more established opponents.
Israel Dagg, Ben Smith and Charles Piutau have the fullback position sewn up with Beauden Barrett likely cover from the bench if needed. Both Smith and Piutau are also great wing options. With Julian Savea an obvious choice on the left wing, there may not be space for either Cory Jane or Frank Halai as cover or they might take Jane at the expense of a midfield player (Crotty). Continue reading
The ITM Cup 2014 is here already, we have seen 14 teams in action over 69 matches. Interestingly in this competition, eight of the 14 teams make the semi-finals of either the Premiership or Championship.
The results from nine rounds of the ITM Cup make for interesting reading and probably frustrated the hell out of tipsters who thought they did well to tip a winner, only to find them missing the margin by 20 points. Even astute tipsters like myself are prone to being wrong. Last week for example, I picked narrow wins at home for the better ranked Taranaki and Tasman teams, only to be denied by Canterbury and Counties Manukau. A late try to both home teams would have seen me clean up most conferences, but alas, it wasn’t to be.
The ITM Cup semi-finals
Traditionally, both Auckland and Canterbury have dominated New Zealand provincial rugby, in a strange twist in 2014, it is perennial battlers Taranaki and newly promoted Tasman that have home advantage for the semi-finals, but are they used to winning the big games? I think that while both Taranaki and Tasman easily won the corresponding matches earlier this season, expect at least one of these semi-finals to be closer, or even an upset, if you can call it that.
Your strategy this weekend depends on how much ground you need to make up. Picking home teams to win both semi-finals is potentially safe, but I can potentially see Canterbury tipping over Tasman. Canterbury’s win over Taranaki last weekend will have given them confidence and that could be dangerous for Tasman who lost last weekend to Counties. Continue reading