This is the big one, the 2014 ITM Cup Premiership Final, which will see the regular season top of the table Premiership qualifiers host the remarkable Tasman, newly promoted and on the verge of winning the big one.
Saturday 25 October, 7.35pm at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth
Played: 10, 2006-2014
Taranaki wins: 8 | Tasman wins: 2
Squad update: The Amber and Blacks are unchanged after their comprehensive 49-30 victory over Auckland, and with Codey Rei passing a concussion test, the side remains intact.
Maori All Blacks captain Charlie Ngatai retains his place in the midfield, and despite the team playing an overtime match last time, assistant Taranaki coach Leo Crowley said that it was a relatively easy choice to keep the side intact for momentum’s sake.
Tasman are also without alteration, with the likes of Jimmy Cowan forcing their way into front line duties, while the impressive pack and back division will back themselves to threaten the home team’s impressive match day squad
Form: Taranaki recovered from a round one 9-9 draw against Counties and a 26-29 defeat against Hawke’s Bay to win seven straight matches.
Their narrow 23-26 loss to Canterbury during their final regular season match, is now largely irrelevant considering we will be crowning a new champion tonight, while earlier in the campaign they were able to defeat the Makos with a one point triumph.
Tasman may have stumbled during their final regular season match against the Steelers, but otherwise the visitors have been one of the form unions throughout the 2014 campaign.
Victorious only twice in ten meetings against the Amber and Blacks, the Makos were successful in New Plymouth in 2013, where they pulled out a 27-20 win.
Last match: Taranaki 31 – 30 Tasman , 11.09.14 in Nelson (ITMC)
Last Tasman win: Tasman 27 – 20 Taranaki , 06.10.13 in New Plymouth (ITMC)
Biggest Taranaki score: 49 (49–40), 01.09.12 in New Plymouth (ITMC, RS)
Biggest Tasman score: 33 (33-23), 17.08.08 in Nelson (ANZC)
Biggest differential: Taranaki by 25 (42–17), 30.09.06 in New Plymouth (ANZC RP)
Key players: The Taranaki pack has been one of the hallmarks of their success throughout the season, with Angus Ta’avao and James Broadhurst doing the job during the set piece, while Blade Thomson has been one of the eye catching number eights during the year.
Marty McKenzie has been consistent at first five-eighth, but the talents of Waikake Naholo, Seta Tamanivalu and Codey Rei have been too good for most teams, so expect the host’s backline to play another major part.
Liam Squire and Shane Christie have been immense for the Makos efforts around the loose, while Quentin MacDonald and Ross Geldenhuys have provided Tasman with a concrete scrum.
Marty Banks, now a Highlander, plays alongside Jimmy Cowan, a Blue for 2015, while Kieron Fonotia and Bryce Heem complete what is a powerful rear outfit.
Taranaki: 15 James Marshall (c), 14 Codey Rei, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Waisake Naholo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Blade Thomson, 7 Berny Hall, 6 Mitchell Crosswell, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Riki Hoeata, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Mitchell Graham.
Replacements: 16 Sione Lea, 17 Ryan Cocker, 18 Mitchell Brown, 19 Iopu Iopu-Aso, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Jackson Ormond, 22 Kurt Baker.
Tasman: 15 Robbie Malneek, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 James Lowe, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Joe Wheeler, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Quentin MacDonald, 1 Siua Hulanukunuka.
Replacements: 16 Jesse MacDonald, 17 Reuben Northover, 18 Tevita Cavubati, 19 Vernon Fredricks, 20 Billy Guyton, 21 David Havili, 22 Mitchell Scott.
Date: Saturday, October 25
Venue: Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant referees: Nick Briant, Damian Botherway
Television match official: Glenn Newman