The fifth round of the ITM Cup is now well underway as Taranaki hosted Hawke’s Bay in atrocious conditions last night in New Plymouth.
The game was a close fought battle that Taranaki eventually won 23-10. However, the victory will be short lived as they now have to concentrate on the biggest match of the round as they challenge Counties Manukau for the Ranfurly Shield at the weekend.
Could the Ranfurly Shield move again this week, making it the fourth move in four weeks.
Talking Rugby Union New Zealand correspondent, Scotty Donaldson, provides that “The Ranfurly Shield is going around some of the more provincial teams like a hot potato, but it is exciting and getting plenty of bums on seats which is something that the NZRU will have to think about going forward.
“Following Taranaki's dominant display against Hawke's Bay, they have a great chance of lifting it again and becoming the fifth team to hold the Log of Wood this season.”
The weather over the round will have a major impact on each game with strong wind and rain predicted around the entire country.
How will players handle doubling up in games this week? So far this year doubling up on games for some teams has not seemed to affect players as much as predicted.
There are two games that standout this week as the toughest picks. These are Taranaki’s Ranfurly Shield match with Counties and Friday’s clash between Manawatu and Southland. Both games look as if they will be close and are sure to be ones to watch out for.
Scotty added that “Taranaki are a difficult side to get a gauge on given that they have lost three out of four games; although, they have played against the big guns in Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland.
They will have more of a chance against Hawke's Bay (which they won) and will be fired up for their Ranfurly Shield challenge against Counties Manukau.
It is crazy having a new team winning the Ranfurly Shield weekly, it could be good if it stays in Counties, assuming they then don't lose it to one of the big teams, but the Naki will be fired up for this one and I think they have a good chance of claiming the prize.”
The Turbos Stags game is sure to be one for the purist and diehard fans only. Both teams have only just recorded their first wins last weekend and are both looking to grab all the points they can aiming for a semi-final place.
The Stags have the better players, but the Turbos have been more likely on attack – one to watch!
The round’s remaining other games feature at least one team that is significantly stronger than their opposition. Particularly when Wellington play Bay of Plenty; Canterbury play Otago; North Harbour play Tasman and Hawke’s Bay play Northland, there should be large point put up with large margins.
Will the Ranfurly Shield be on the move once again? Who are your picks for a win in the fifth round of the ITM Cup?