We are halfway through the nine-week 2022 Bunnings NPC regular season, with the teams having played either four or five of their 10 regular season games. Four teams from each of the odds and evens conferences qualify for the playoffs, so there is still plenty to play for as the season progresses.
Here is a look at some of the matches on tap this weekend with BetXchange.
Northland VS Auckland – Semenoff Stadium, Whangarei
Second visits third in the Evens Conference here as Northland hosts Auckland in Whangarei. Auckland will be boosted by the return of Roger Tuiava-Sheck, who is one of eight All Blacks back with their NPC teams after being released to find some minutes. Tuivasa-Sheck has been criminally short of match time since the end of the Super Rugby season, but his time with New Zealand has seen him used just once, with even that being a pointless late cameo.
Both Tuivasa-Sheck and Angus Ta’avao will join this one from the bench and will help the visitors over the top with a win here and a cover of the -6.5 spread with BetXchange.
Taranaki VS Waikato – Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Taranaki sits sixth in the Evens Conference with a single win and three defeats in their four games. They host a Waikato team in good form here, with the Mooloos having won three and lost just once to sit second in the Odds Conference.
This is the first match at Yarrow Stadium for Taranaki since 2019, and they will be able to count on the services of returning All Black Tupo Vaa’i. Vaa’i starts, an important and well-timed return given the loss of Stan van den Hoven for the season last time out. This should be a great occasion, and I can see Taranaki sneaking a cover at +5.5.
Southland VS Wellington – Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill
Wellington has 10 points from an even record of two wins and two defeats and is surprisingly all the way down in sixth place in the Odds Conference. That is, however, one position on the log higher than their opponents, with Southland being seventh and last in the Odds as the only team in that conference with no wins and four defeats.
Southland does have four points, with their three losing bonus points from four games (and their -26 point differential that is eight points better than Wellington) showing that they know how to keep games close. It will be close again here, but Wellington will win with Southland covering the +5.5 spread.
Otago VS Bay of Plenty – Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
The closest game of the round on paper sees Otago as 0.5-point favorites over visiting Bay of Plenty. This is third against fourth in the Odds, with Otago on 14 points, two points clear of Bay of Plenty, albeit having played a game more at this point in the season.
Both of these teams lost last weekend as Otago wasn’t close to being able to run with Auckland at Eden Park, and BoP couldn’t find their scoring touch in a disappointing 18-13 defeat at the hands of Counties Manukau. Whichever team is more resilient here will be in a great position for a finals spot, and I like Bay of Plenty to be that team in a slight upset.