ITM Cup: Tasman match a must win


Nothing but victory over Tasman at Trafalgar Park in Nelson tomorrow night will do for Bay of Plenty as they fight for their place in the ITM Premiership.

The Steamers are just two points ahead of Waikato and Hawkes Bay, but have played an extra game than both their rivals, in the scrap to avoid relegation.

No matter how many games they have dominated, or the calibre of their squad, the reality is that the Steamers need maximum points from Tasman because their last game is hardly easy against Canterbury in Christchurch on October 14.

Tomorrow's match against the Makos will be the third in nine days for the Steamers, while their hosts have had seven days to get over their narrow one-point loss to Waikato in Hamilton.

Steamers coach Kevin Schuler knows just how crucial victory is for his team.

"This is sort of our grand final and we have to nail this one to keep us where we want to be, don't we?" Schuler said. "We just have to play good rugby and we have gone down there and won before.

We know they love to play a lot of rugby and will attack us for 80 minutes and sometimes that can work for them and sometimes it can be to their detriment.

"But it is more about us. We are at the end of our short three games turnaround so we have to make sure physically the boys are ready to go again.

"We dominated so much of the Northland match and in the first half our shape and structure was good. It was a little frustrating that we couldn't finish off some of that real advantage we had created, and that was down to some of our finishing and being a little over-eager at the breakdown.

"We addressed that at halftime and we had a pretty solid first 20 minutes of the second half and we got the bonus point we needed.

"The game lost a bit of structure for us in the last 20 but getting the win and the five points was really pleasing.

"The timing of the reserves went really well. Burls [Phil Burleigh] had taken a knock on the head and Mafi Kefu came on and did a good job, but we knew we had them with our phase play and they were pretty tired."

Injuries have meant changes to the Steamers team from that which defeated Northland 31-19 at Baypark Stadium on Sunday. Burleigh is out with that head knock, and Luke Braid has a sore toe so also misses the Tasman game, which opens up opportunities to less-experienced players.

Rotoiti captain Jesse Acton will start at blindside flanker, Rangataua lock Matt Clutterbuck will make his debut from the bench and Nick McCashin switches to fullback. Halfback Jamie Nutbrown is on the bench after a long injury layoff.

"Jesse is a pretty abrasive-style football player and he has got some real power so he will bring a real explosive element to us," Schuler said.

"He loves his defence and he got through some good work in that last 25 minutes [against Northland] and he loves getting over the ball. He is pretty excited in his first run-on game.

"Matt has come off a pretty serious foot injury early in the year and he has really found his form in the last couple of weeks for the Development, so we are expecting to get Matt some decent sort of game time.

"Mafi will take over the midfield role and he will give some good options for Noakesy and how we play through the middle, and it will also be good to have Cashy there to give us another territory kicker on the paddock plus he finds the gap well."

Schuler is well aware of the statistical advantage his side has enjoyed in nearly every game this year and he wants that to continue against Tasman.

"From a set piece perspective, our lineout was right at the top of the comp until Wellington overtook us last week, and our scrum has been fine and provided us with a platform to launch from. We have created opportunities and I suppose it will come down to the detail around why we couldn't make better use of it.

"But this Tasman game is all about getting down there and putting it in the bag and keeping our hopes alive."

Bay of Plenty team: 1 Greg Pleasants-Tate 2 John Pareanga 3 Josh Hohneck 4 Dan Goodwin 5 Leon Power 6 Jesse Acton 7 Tanerau Latimer (captain) 8 Carl Axtens 9 Lewis Hancock 10 Chris Noakes 11 Lance Macdonald 12 Mafi Kefu 13 Kenny Lynn 14 Lelia Masaga 15 Nick McCashin.

Reserves: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Mike Kainga, 18 Keepa Mewett, 19 Matt Clutterbuck, 20 Jamie Nutbrown, 21 Simon Rolleston, 22 Jack Wilson

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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