What a Mickey Mouse weekend of ITM Cup 2014 with the narrowest winning margin being a 24-10 win for Counties Manukau over Southland in the cold Invercargill. The average winning margin was 24 points, while Canterbury got thrashed at home by the Tasman Makos, while the Magpies showed that they are strong at home, but terrible on the road.
The Ranfurly Shield has a double edged sword. Apart from the Stags and Canterbury, only Wellington lost at home (again)! There were comfortable home wins for Hawke's Bay, Auckland, Northland, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu. All this suggests that big margins are order of the day for ITM Cup Round 9.
ITM Cup Round 9 results:
Hawke's Bay 36-22 Wellington
Auckland 60 - 19 Waikato
Northland 58-27 North Harbour
Southland 10 -24 Counties-Manukau
BOP 33-16 Otago
Canterbury 10-38 Tasman
Manawatu 29-3 Hawke's Bay
Wellington 22-38 Taranaki
The home win for Bay of Plenty over Otago was the upset of the round, with away wins for Counties and Tasman also not heavily predicted by tipsters. People thought the cold weather would get the Stags across the line! Canterbury have shown that you can start strongly, but ITM Cup is a long competition and you want to be peaking at the business end.
The ITM Cup Premiership race could take an even greater twist if Taranaki can beat Canterbury, leaving Canterbury going from heroes to zeros in the space of two weeks. They should still be safe in the semi finals, but they will have to travel to the rugby strongholds of New Plymouth or Nelson for the semi-finals! It is a crazy competition this year with Wellington finishing last by miles.
The ITM Cup Championship is no different. Manawatu and Northland are already guaranteed a place in the playoffs, leaving regulars like Otago and Southland to battle it out for the fourth spot. Even Hawkes Bay may not top the competition with their away form being rusty. There are four teams in the running for fourth spot in the ITM Cup Championship! Some of the ITM Cup Championship teams have spoiled the party for the ITM Cup Premiership teams, especially if they were lucky enough to play Wellington and Waikato.