Palmerbet Sports Team’s Best of the Day preview breaks down Manawatu’s daunting Round 4 away assignment against Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup. 

Mitre 10 Cup Tips – Canterbury V Manawatu

17:35 (AEST) @ AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Last Meeting: September 17, 2016: Manawatu 19 d Canterbury 13 at Central Energy Trust Arena

Final Thoughts: Canterbury’s Mitre 10 Cup title defence is gathering steam after an early stumble, while Manawatu are at a crossroads following a pair of heavy defeats.

After going down to Tasman in Round 1 – a rematch of last year’s final – the three-time defending champs outlasted fellow heavyweights Wellington 27-20, then scored a 31-19 away win over in-form Bay of Plenty.

Canterbury traditionally make their charge in the back half of the season when their bevy of All Blacks return, but they still boast stacks of talent in the form of George Bridge, Whetu Douglas and Reed Prinsep, with Crusaders stars Luke Romano and Mitch Drummond coming off the bench.

Manawatu opened their campaign with a 24-19 upset of Waikato, but it’s been all downhill since.

The Turbos’ Ranfurly Shield challenge against Taranaki fell flat, going down 41-21 in New Plymouth. But their 50-17 thrashing at the hands of previously winless Otago in Round 3 in their own backyard – after leading at halftime – was a stark reality check.

Only Southland have conceded more points so far in 2018, while Manawatu also have the third-worst attack.

The Turbos stunned eventual champions Canterbury 19-13 in 2016, the provinces’ most recent meeting.

The previous two meetings saw the red-and-blacks win by margins of 50-plus.

Three tough outings against quality teams will have Canterbury in the mood to open their shoulders and flex their attacking muscle. Given Manawatu’s recent defensive efforts – conceding 12 tries in the past fortnight – the hosts look a great bet against the sizeable line in this clash.

Tip: Handicap – Canterbury -21.5 @ $1.90