Spotswood after sweet revenge against Tukapa
The All Blacks were planning a Rugby World Cup campaign in South Africa the last time Spotswood United beat Tukapa.
The year was 1995 and Spotswood United enjoyed a notable double over a club they used to share a home ground with.
Incidentally, it was also the last time they made a senior A final.
Yes, 1995 was a vintage year for a club celebrating its origins 125 years ago this season. As well as scoring 79 tries, one of its old boys, first five-eighth Anthony Callaghan, set a Taranaki record as he amassed 242 points.
Nineteen years has undoubtedly erased the memory of those losses for Tukapa, who have inflicted a number of hidings on their city rivals since, including a time when they racked up 120 points.
Times have changed, however, with Spotswood United sitting in second place on the premier competition table, while Tukapa are six points behind in fifth.
Indications are the "dog pound", as the home side have renamed Yarrow Stadium's back field, might be a tough place for a cast iron chicken to parade this afternoon.
With a backline containing the likes of co-captain Warwick Lahmert, Josh Hamilton, Seta Tamanivalu, Dave Philander and Waisake Naholo, Tukapa's defence is going to have to be focused, especially if Spotswood United get some quality ball from their hard working pack.
Defence has been a key word at Tukapa training this week and a look at the table shows why.
They have already leaked 183 points in six games this season. That's more than they conceded in 13 games last year, 15 matches in 2012 and 14 games in 2011.
However, Spotswood United co-coach Brendan Crowley is not getting carried away with the opportunity which presents itself today.
"It's no different to any other week," he insisted yesterday. "The competition is that close, if we lose tomorrow we drop to fourth, then the points get halved and everyone is back in it."
Crowley will send out a team minus impressive No 8 Iopu Iopu, who is still recovering from illness, while flanker Toa Halafihi is still some weeks away after failing to get over a shoulder injury.
He does have a full stock of front rowers available, including tighthead Mitchell Graham, who has impressed everyone since his arrival from Canterbury.
"He's a huge asset for us as coaches because his knowledge of the game is outstanding. He's got a fair bit to add, which is great, really."
Crowley said the key for his side winning would be shutting down Tukapa's eight, nine, 10 axis of Adrian Wyrill, Jamison Gibson-Park and Jack Cameron.
"If we let those three play, then it's going to be a long day at the office."
While he enjoyed last week's dramatic 36-33 win over New Plymouth Old Boys, Tukapa coach Laurence Corlett knows there is a lot of improvement needed from his side if they are going to be contenders in 2014.
"There are still a lot of things we are not happy with, especially our defence, so I wouldn't say we are ecstatic," he said.
There have been a couple of notable changes from the Tukapa side which started last week, with prop Baxter King out with a calf strain, while former Taranaki rep Nathan Hohaia has been promoted from the bench to start at centre.
King has been replaced by the versatile Ben Siffleet.
"He's played prop before and he has been our go-to man," Corlett said. "He's also hooked for us and he'd tell you he could play first five as well."
Corlett thought Spotswood United were "a fantastic side" full of game breakers with a dangerous scrum which could cause his side problems.
Elsewhere, the match at Vogeltown Park between Old Boys and Inglewood looks just as appealing. Both sides sit sit in the top four, with Inglewood having lost just once, while their opposition have dropped two and had a draw.
Old Boys could still be in a state of shock at how they let a healthy lead against Tukapa slip, while Inglewood were mixed in their narrow 31-29 win over Southern seven days ago.
The home side appear intent on sticking to their open style of play. Whether that proves fruitful against one of the best defensive outfits in the competition will have to be proven.
Inglewood have the services of Chiefs hooker Rhys Marshall for a second week running, although on a not so positive note, co-captain Berny Hall remains sidelined with ongoing concussion issues.
Competition leaders Coastal should be too strong for an injury-hit Clifton side, especially with their form appearing to be getting better each week.
Clifton welcome back Taranaki utility back Beaudein Waaka, although it is believed he is only be allowed to play 20 minutes at the request of the representative team's medical staff.
Coastal could fancy their chances up front, with Clifton missing Taranaki props Ryan Cocker and Sione Lea, while No 8 and captain Chris Black is also absent.
The first round wooden spoon is up for grabs when Southern host Stratford. Although it looks from the outside that Southern should prevail, Stratford put in arguably their best 80 minutes last season at Hicks Park and might be tougher than the defending champions think.
No defending champion has gone through the first round of the next season without a win, which should be incentive enough for Southern to lift their game, if only to give themselves some confidence.
That also applies to Stratford, who are in desperate need of a morale boosting performance.
HOW THEY LINE UP
SPOTSWOOD UTD vs TUKAPA
2.45pm today Yarrow Stadium No 4
Referee: Will Johnston
SPOTSWOOD UTD: Phil Barraclough, Waisake Naholo, Dave Philander, Seta Tamanivalu, Brayden Byrne, Josh Hamilton, Warwick Lahmert (co-captain), Blair Rook, Tristian Lahmert, Micaiah Torrance-Read, Richard Sutton, Blake Irving, Mitchell Graham, Matt Goodwin (co-captain), Bradley Chubb. Reserves, Matt Tupa, Jared Profitt, Jared Nell, Pauliasi Hanfiro, Robert McLeod, Michael Reid, Vea Sofei.
TUKAPA: Oti Wilson, Ryan Bishop, Nathan Hohaia, Jesse McLay, Tane Uhila, Jack Cameron, Jamison Gibson-Park, Adrian Wyrill, Sam Shaw, Alec Dravitski, Dave De Villiers, Leighton Price (captain), Ben Siffleet, Kris Moller, Michael Hurworth. Reserves, Conan Houkamau, Daniel Green, Reece Hannam, Tom Steventon, Josh Hickford, Junior Paparoa, Pele Muagutuita, Jimi Webley.
Other games Coastal v Clifton Okato NPOB v Inglewood Vogeltown Park Southern v Stratford Hawera
Taranaki Daily News