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August 16, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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The NPC

The NPC is underway, and the opening rounds have again provided plenty of upsets. After two weeks, Counties Manukau— one of the wooden spoon favourites—top the table, as one of only three teams to have recorded two wins from two. Canterbury remains the favourite at the TAB, following a draw and a win leaving them in fourth place, while Waikato and Auckland (third and fifth respectively) are third-equal favourites.

The biggest disappointment so far has been local boys Wellington. They’re sitting in the bottom half following a narrow win over the other wooden spoon favourites Tasman, before being the victim of perhaps the biggest upset so far, with a loss to Tana Umaga’s Steelers in round two at the Cake Tin. However, at least the Lions have showed glimpses of class and fight—reason enough to remain second favourites.

Fellow Hurricane franchise sides Manawatu, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki have had vastly differing fortunes so far. The Turbos are not expected to do much more than cause a few upsets, and almost did so with a gut-wrenching 26–27 loss to Canterbury. On the other hand, the Magpies have been excellent in recent years, and hence will be disappointed with an 11–30 defeat at the hands of Bay of Plenty. This was following on from yet another strong showing against Canterbury (23-all in round one). Meanwhile, Taranaki has had a mixed start, backing up a narrow upset loss to in-form Northland with a solid win over Tasman, to currently fly the Hurricane flag in seventh place.

The surprise packages so far, other than the table-topping Steelers, have been Northland and Bay of Plenty. Despite only recording one win apiece, both have caused upsets, and been narrowly denied hard-fought victories in their other games. My favourite moment so far was Taniwha veteran David Holwell’s canny try against North Harbour—a classy left-foot step capped off by ducking under the last defender’s tackle. While it is far too early to make many predictions, there are certainly good early signs that this season could be tight and exciting. I still have faith in Wellington’s ability to finish at the top, and failing that there is always the mighty Wairarapa-Bush in the Heartland Championship.

I feel sure the sides will perform better than in the Super 14, and the All Blacks’ commanding form in the Tri Nations bodes well for Kiwi rugby on the whole.

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