Planet Rugby

Preview: Canterbury v Taranaki

19th October 2012 06:27

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Canterbury: Host Taranaki in Saturday's first ITM Cup semi

Canterbury will look to continue on their path towards a fifth consecutive final when they take on Taranaki in Saturday's ITM Cup semi-final at AMI Stadium.

Not for the first time, the defending champions stumbled in the opening round (losing to Tasman) but once again improved as the season progressed to become the team to beat at the business end of New Zealand's domestic tournament.

Indeed, Canterbury are on a roll at the moment and unbeaten in their last five outings where they haven't scored less than 44 points or six tries.

Their extraodinary run saw Tabai Matson's troops finish top of the Premiership standings (39 points), with just two losses to their name. One of which was against Taranaki in Round Five when Canterbury were outmuscled by the Amber and Blacks' forwards in atrocious conditions.

It's no wonder Matson and his red and black army are relishing another crack at the former Ranfurly Shield holders.

"We're really pleased we get another go at them," said Matson.

"We were outplayed on the day so to have another shot at them gives us an opportunity that doesn't come around very often. It's great to play them in a semi-final and we're really pumped for it."

Indeed, a win against their visitors will put Canterbury a step closer to claiming an incredible fifth consecutive ITM Cup title with either Auckland or Wellington joining them in the final.

Taranaki have been on a downward spiral ever since losing the Shield to Waikato and the odds are stacked heavily against them causing an upset in Christchurch.

After losing the shield to Waikato, Taranaki struggled against Southland before being outplayed by Wellington in their last outing. But Matson isn't buying it.

"They're far from vulnerable," he said.

"They've got a great roster and while they probably haven't played to their potential they, like us, will be really excited about being in a semi-final."

History though is against Taranaki. The Amber and Blacks have never beaten Canterbury in Christchurch since the inception of the NPC in 1976. And Taranaki's last semi-final appearance was 12 years ago. The team which beat them in the play-offs? Canterbury.

Prediction: Canterbury to make it to the grand finale which means a home final for the defending champs. Canterbury to win by 10 points!

The teams:

Canterbury: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Adam Whitelock, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Andy Elllis, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Jed Brown, 6 George Whitelock (c), 5 Dominic Bird, 4 Joel Everson, 3 Paea Fa'aunu, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Matt Symons, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Telusa Veainu, 22 Stephen Gee.

Taranaki: 15 James Marshall.14 Andre Taylor, 13 Kurt Baker,12 Jayden Hayward,11 Waisake Naholo,10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Jarrad Hoeata, 7 Chris Walker, 6 James Broadhurst, 5 Jason Eaton (c), 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Michael Bent,2 Timo Tutavaha, 1 Chris King.
Replacements: 16 Laurence Corlett, 17 Carl Carmichael, 18 Nemia Soqeta, 19 Adrian Wyrill, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Seta Tamanivalu, 22 Jackson Ormond.

Date: Saturday, 20 October
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant referees: Keith Brown , Ben O'Keffe
Television match official: Doug Rodgers

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FixtureDetails
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ITM Cup
Saturday , September 20
Hawkes Bay vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs North HarbourAuckland vs North Harbour Preview
Manawatu vs Southland19:35
Sunday , September 21
Otago vs WaikatoOtago vs Waikato Preview
Wellington vs Tasman16:35
Wednesday, September 24
North Harbour vs Canterbury19:35
Thursday , September 25
Bay Of Plenty vs Northland19:35
Friday , September 26
Taranaki vs Auckland19:35
Saturday , September 27
Waikato vs Manawatu14:35
Counties Manukau vs Wellington17:35
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Friday , September 19
Counties Manukau 20 - 28 CanterburyCounties Manukau vs Canterbury Report
Thursday , September 18
Northland 20 - 31 TaranakiNorthland vs Taranaki Report
Wednesday, September 17
Southland 14 - 38 TasmanSouthland vs Tasman Report
Sunday , September 14
Waikato 26 - 21 Counties ManukauWaikato vs Counties Manukau Report
Hawkes Bay 41 - 0 Otago
Saturday , September 13
Bay Of Plenty 12 - 27 AucklandBay Of Plenty vs Auckland Report
Southland 36 - 34 Northland
Friday , September 12
North Harbour 24 - 13 Manawatu
Canterbury 46 - 12 WellingtonCanterbury vs Wellington Report
Thursday , September 11
Tasman 30 - 31 TaranakiTasman vs Taranaki Report
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PosTeamPPts
1Canterbury628
2Taranaki727
3Tasman622
4Auckland515
5Waikato615