Mitre 10 Cup Week 7: Halfway point passed in Domestic Rugby

Mitre 10 Cup Week 7: Halfway point passed in Domestic Rugby
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 21: Tasman's Lotima Faingaanuku is tackled by the defence during the Mitre 10 Cup Week 7 match between Waikato and Tasman at FMG Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Passed the halfway stage of the 10-week domestic rugby season, Mitre 10 Cup week 7 results ensured that several teams are still in contention for the playoffs.

Fans attention may be distracted with the start of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but each week, the provincial unions around New Zealand do battle. Often fierce local derby matches, yet in Mitre 10 Cup week 7 action, most of the games were inter-Island affairs.

That did not detract from the intensity this weekend though.

Several unpredicted results sent a few more shockwaves through the standings. Not detrimental to the leading sides, however, it will make for an interesting last three rounds of the regular season. In one critical game, the current title holders suffered their fourth defeat of the year – not seen in Canterbury, since 2011.

Other match outcomes reinforced teams places. If those were high-up or if they were well down the table, then it might suggest the ‘rich are getting richer, as the poor are getting poorer’….that was until you consider the result for Southland.

South Island teams contrasting results – ‘First Win’ and ‘Fourth Loss’

In a huge relief to fans of the Southland Rugby province, they were glad to ‘finally get rid of the monkey on their back’. The indignity of years of winless results were put right against Counties-Manukau 42-14.

Even if that only earnt a sole victory for the season, it rebuilds confidence for stakeholders and fans. A solid showing against Manawatu the week before too, shows how the Dave Hewitt coached team may have turned their year around.

Not so for their neighbouring South Island team though. Canterbury, inconsistent, and poor in execution and luck – the below video low-light will haunt the red and blacks in 2019. Unfortunate maybe, but certainly not as dominant as they have been.

Astonishingly though, with the errant form of other Premiership teams, Canterbury still hold a midfield place – thanks to losing bonus points. Hardly joyful reading but, it could help them with several home games left in their 2019 campaign.

The team that were victorious over Canterbury in Week 7, were the Manawatu Turbos. A surprise package, although one boosted significantly by the services of unwanted All Black Ngani Laumape. His try-scoring form is an important positive, with weekly matches and confidence-boosting results within Mitre 10 Cup week 7 a positive to NZ Rugby and individually, to the All Blacks management.

Mitre 10 Cup Week 7: Domestic Rugby highlights

On Friday night, there was one key local derby – from opposing sides of the North Island. Hawke’s Bay, who contribute to the Hurricanes, met Taranaki; the Chiefs central North Island contributor. And the result went the way that Super Rugby did, the Magpies outscoring the Bulls two-to-one.

Two further north v south encounters saw both the visitors walk away with the rewards. The first on Saturday, a relatively entertaining match, with 61 points scored in total.

Sadly, Waikato could not celebrate captain Dwayne Sweeney’s 100th provincial cap (see below image). His moment was upstaged by a more disciplined Tasman Mako. And even if they dispenced too many points to the home side, they still left comfortably with another bonus point.

Waikato’s Dwayne Sweeney
makes a break during the round 7 Mitre 10 Cup match between Waikato and Tasman at FMG Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Up in Albany, a cross-conference game did not present a highly polished match. Visitors Otago started with more intent, yet when Harbour gained nearly 70% of possession, a 7-14 halftime score would have resulted in a pretty stern halftime talk. While an improvement opened the third quarter, by the end of the game this reporter would be honest to explain that Harbour had ‘few opportunities’.

Speaking post-match to assistant coach Sam Ward, he mentioned how “we had to work hard, skill execution and taking opportunities is on our shoulders but, big props to Otago for the defensive pressure they put us under.”

“They played with three sevens [both blindside and openside], they had really good line speed and shut down our options.”

Weekend of Mitre 10 Cup capped off with quality Rugby

Then on Sunday, current champions Auckland hosted Wellington. The yellow and black of the Lions had been elevated to the Premiership [promotion/relegation format] and proved their place was secure. A rare win, not since 2013 had the Lions triumphed over Auckland. They did it in style too, not providing Auckland with any second-half points, as they romped to a rare win at Eden Park.

Closing out the rugby action, the Taniwha from Northland hosted the high flying Bay of Plenty Steamers. Flying was something the ‘BOP side continued to do. easily collecting a bonus-point win. Although, conceding over 20 points is probably an area they must work on.

Ideally, the better teams must be ‘stingey’ in their defence. All-out attack can often result in mistakes, where the opposition can recover a try or more – lessons need to be learned by Bay of Plenty, as well as Tasman.

Overall, Mitre 10 Cup week 7 results did not ‘change the world’. It was, in fact, an agreement on form; the Canterbury team of 2019 is not at the same level of the last eight seasons. Teams may be missing some domestic player’s who have left for the United Kingdom/European rugby competition. Some experience over the competition has been removed – yet, for the benefit of future development, that may be of long term benefit.

Top teams now are: Tasman Mako, Wellington Lions in the Premiership. Hawke’s Bay Magpies, Bay of Plenty Steamers and Otago in the Championship. That is not dead certain for the runners up hopes, but it does make several remaining fixtures of major significance:

Week 8: Tasman v Auckland | Bay of Plenty v Hawke’s Bay | Otago v Waikato
Week 9: Harbour v Wellington | Otago v Canterbury | Waikato v Taranaki
Week 10: Hawke’s Bay v Tasman | Wellington v Waikato | Canterbury v Harbour

By then, fans will know who are the ‘real deal’.

The semifinals are then scheduled from Friday, October 18. Continuing on Saturday, Oct 19, and while still conflicting with RWC quarterfinals games (where New Zealand should feature) it will be proven again and again, fans love their provincial rugby.

And in 2019, nothing is going to change that.

 

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.