W Manawatu Standard
Ambaka to start as struggling Turbos chase playoffs
By Eric Njiru | Thu 14 Sep, 2017 08:16

Manawatu Turbos will be looking to return to winning ways when they take on Hamilton this weekend away.

Several injuries from the last two weeks have led coach Jeremy Cotter to introduce fresh faces.

There are three notable changes to the starting fifteen with Jason Emery back at second five, Brice Henderson coming in at 8 for an injured Nick Crosswell, and Newton Tudreu getting the nod over Curtis Ambrose on the right wing.

Captain Heiden Bedwell-Curtis has shifted across to the blindside, a role which he is more than accustomed to.

Tim Cadwallader will once again start at hooker in the absence of the incumbent Hunter Prescott, who is facing weeks on the sideline with a fractured hand. Newcomer Tom Crozier has been brought in as specialist hooker cover. He's currently on loan from Canterbury and has had spells for England at age grade levels.

Further to this, Harrison Brewer has been recalled to the bench, alongside his Te Kawau teammate Liam Mitchell; both will be itching to get minutes under their belts.

The Manawatu Turbos have six games remaining to avoid a third consecutive season without playoff rugby. They need four more wins to be certain of pulling it off.

That will be an uphill battle for Manawatu after back-to-back let-down performances saw them skid to one win from four games. But they proved during their win over Tasman, and at times during their loss to Wellington, that they have the ability to pull it off.

The reality is splitting their remaining games with three wins and three losses could also be good enough to get over the line, providing they register enough bonus points.

Since the two-division format (Premiership and Championship) was adopted in 2011, the fourth qualifier in the semifinals of the Championship division has had just four wins every year with the exception of Bay of Plenty in 2016, who had just three wins but 11 bonus points.

Looking ahead in the schedule, the road to the playoffs is rocky for Manawatu. They have Waikato, Southland, Taranaki and Hawke's Bay away and Northland and Counties Manukau at home.

If they can't beat the struggling Southland and Hawke's Bay, then they probably don't deserve to make the playoffs anyway. On current form, those are the only two games they will head into as favourites.

For Manawatu to pull off a playoff run, they need to step up as a collective unit. Their inconsistency has been their downfall, particularly in the second half.

There have been too many knock ons, too many defensive lapses and too many decision-making errors. Scrums became a massive concern last week when starting props Michael Alaalatoa and Fraser Armstrong left the field.

In past games, the Manawatu scrum has got better later in the game, but against Bay of Plenty it fell apart.

Manawatu Turbos1.Armstrong, Fraser 2.Cadwallader, Tim 3.Alaalatoa, Michael 4.Parsons, Tom 5.Hemopo, Jackson 6.Bedwell-Curtis, Heiden 7.Kiri Kiri, Antonio 8.Henderson, Brice 9.Hammington, Kayne 10.Black, Otere 11.Ambaka, William 12.Emery, Jason 13.Marshall, Lewis 14.Tudreu, Newton 15.Baker, Kurt

Reserves: Tom Crozier,Tuki Raimona, Sean Paranihi, Liam Mitchall, Harrison Brewer, Jamie Booth, Jade Te Rure,  Ambrose Curtis.

Eric Njiru
eric@ragahouse.com 0726205521
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