By PETER JESSUP
New Zealand's best Bartercard Cup players will try to turn a physical advantage into points when they meet the best of the New South Wales Country at North Harbour Stadium tomorrow.
After watching an imposing Auckland side dominate in the muscle stakes but drop too much ball to win against the Country side on Tuesday night, NZ A coach Phill Prescott has emphasised the need to build pressure through delivery of quality ball at the right end of the field.
Too many times Auckland broke the line, pushed an unnecessary miracle ball and lost possession.
Prescott is banking on captain Steve Buckingham to control the game and put a hold on any bad decision-making. "I'm lucky to have him, he likes to take control of a game and the players respect his calls because of his experience.
"It's made my job easier this week - he's been ace card," Prescott said of the 30-year-old Mt Albert five-eighth.
Glenora prop Ben Valeni remains in doubt with a hamstring strain that kept him out of Tuesday's game but the team physio suggested he would be okay to play. Northcote's Jason Duff filled in well as a late call-up for Warrior Shannon Stowers and delivered up front.
"We had an advantage in watching NSWC play on Tuesday and Duff is the sort of prop we need," Prescott said. Auckland held a strong physical advantage and didn't capitalise on it, Prescott felt.
He respects the ability of the opposition, chosen from the 44,000 registered players outside Sydney. "Their props gave them some good gain and the back row played well. Their fullback is a good returner of the football so a good chase is required."
Buckingham is likely to win the kicking game, the NSWC kickers striking the ball dead too often on Tuesday. The NZ A pack should have too much muscle, their backs too much pace.
As Prescott said, it's a matter of their completing sets smartly.
The performance of Warriors development player Frank Paul Nuuausala will be of interest. He is easily taken for Ali Lauitiiti - same size, same running style, similar impact.
The NSWC under-18 representative team play the curtain-raiser against 2003-2004 NJC champions Wellington under-18 at 12.50pm. The Junior Kiwis selectors will be watching as they prepare for a tour by the England under 18 Academy next month. The English side play three games in New Zealand including two tests against the Junior Kiwis..
The main game tomorrow kicks off at 2.30pm.
New Zealand A: Misi Taulpapa (Marist-Richnmond), Karl Johnson (Nth Hbr Tigers), Paul Fisi'iahi (Otahuhu-Ellerslie), Ricky Henry (Marist-Richmond), Rowan Baxter (Mt Albert), Steve Buckingham captain (Mt Albert), Aoterangi Herasngi (Counties-Manukau), Kurt Cawdron (Marist-Richmond), Andrew Auimatangi (Canterbury), Jason Duff (Nth Hbr), Sam Wallace (Canterbury), Henry Turua (Marist-Richmond), Frank-Paul Nuuausala (Otahuhu-Ellerslie), Bernie Perenara (Marist-Richmond), Chris Newton (Canterbury), Lee Tamatoa (Glenora), Ben Valeni (Glenora).
NSW Country: Gary Dowling (Gungahlin), Adam Blake (Dapto), Luke Taylor (Nth Tamworth), Fuad Suljkanovic (Thirroul), Geoff Johnson (Shoalhaven Heads), Jacob Briggs (Lakes United), Warwick Colley (Mudgee), Kip Miranda (Lithgow), Darren Jackson (Dubbo), Mahe Hala (Queenbeyan Blues), Peter Jensen (Tumbarrumba), Ben Murphy (Orange), Phil Stonham (Queenbeyan Kangaroos), Kurt Hancock (Bathurst), Dean Amos (Wyong).
By PETER JESSUP