While analysis plays a big part in dissecting rugby matches these days, the Manawatu coaches sift the wheat from the statistics.
For instance, Northland were accorded a stack of scrum wins when the Turbos beat the Taniwha 28-23 on Sunday.
Turbos coach Jason O'Halloran wasn't buying that statistic.
"Stats are so misleading," he said. "All of their scrums were under the pump. We were pretty dominant."
Part of that can be attributed to Canadian prop Hubert Buydens, who has been playing well thanks to his increased fitness. A year ago, when carrying more beef, he battled to get a run off the bench.
It was also a valiant effort by tighthead prop Ma'afu Fia to come back and play 80 minutes after his lengthy layoff. Chris Eves had been training all week to back up Fia, but in the end wasn't required at tighthead.
Everyone can see Manawatu's backs must lift when it comes to their overall defence, second five-eighth Hamish Northcott a clear exception.
The statistics showed 30 tackles were missed on Sunday, close to last year's unpalatable ration.
But as O'Halloran pointed out, 11 of those were missed on Northland's Fijian wing, Jone Macilai, alone. Many were due to tacklers flying up fast and then Macilai being able to get up steam and more easily step other defenders.
Deduct those 11 misses and the count of missed tackles would be down to what most NPC coaches deem acceptable - 22 to 23.
"There was good defence among it as well," O'Halloran said.
The Turbos forced Northland to run into touch four times and four of their lineouts were stolen.
Manawatu conceded 11 turnovers, whereas Northland conceded a whopping 28.
"That was the ball-game right there," O'Halloran said. "We have just got to make sure we are not put under pressure with errant kicks."
Continuing the statistics theme, Nick Grogan's first lineout throw went over the back, yet was recorded as a lineout win to Manawatu because the Northland catcher lost the ball.
That, though, was about Manawatu's sole lineout glitch, reassuring to Turbos fans who watched the lineouts implode last season.
O'Halloran already feels the forwards are going better than they did last year, but the backs were not as efficient as in the pre-season win over Wellington and the draw with Tasman.
More important now is that the Turbos have never beaten next Sunday's opponents, Auckland, since the competition started in 2006. It won't help Manawatu's cause that Auckland were monstered 48-9 by Canterbury on Saturday. "Canterbury were outstanding. Auckland will be pretty keen to make amends this week."
The Turbos always play better when coming out of their home hammocks and can hark back to last season when they lost 21-18. But it was two tries each and Manawatu snaffled only their second bonus point against Auckland since 2006.
All but the injured Lewis Marshall will be fit for selection to play Auckland. Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder should be over the corked calf muscle he hurt in Whangarei.
- Manawatu Standard
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