Super Rugby Round 15: Blues v Reds Preview

Super-Rugby-2017-Blues-v-Reds-preview

We preview Friday's Round 15 Super Rugby clash between the Blues and Reds.

The match that kicks-off the final set of fixtures for Super Rugby’s Australasian sides before the June Test window commences (South Africa’s contingent played their final games last week), sees the Auckland Blues host the Queensland Reds at Apia Park on Friday. This is the last chance for the New Zealanders in Tana Umaga’s squad to stake a claim for All Black selection against the British & Irish Lions, and prove to Steve Hansen what they can do. The Reds meanwhile, will be going balls-to-the-wall to ensure they close the gap between themselves and the Aussie Conference wild-card berth.

Blues v Reds | Friday 2 June | Apia Park | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Blues 1/10 | Draw 33/1 | Reds 5/1
Handicap
Blues (-14.5) 9/10 | Reds (+14.5) 9/10


Blues
While the Blues 16-all draw to the Chiefs at home last week wasn’t necessarily a bad result for the Aucklanders, they really should have had the temperament to put the game to bed. They controlled it for large parts, and they will be bitterly disappointed that they couldn’t break their duck against fellow Kiwi sides. The lapse in midfield that led to Damian McKenzie’s try just before half-time (where the Blues’ tight-forwards found themselves in the middle of the backline) was a crucial moment in the tie, while the fact that the hosts could only muster three points in the second forty was also simply not good enough. As abysmal as their second-half display was, Piers Francis (called up to the England squad for their Tests against Argentina) still has the chance to in it from a penalty in the 73rd-minute – his miss really summing up the Blues of 2017; so near, yet so damn far.

They host the Reds this Friday, and while they would ordinarily be expected to run them ragged, this may not be the case - the Blues’ almost France-like inconsistency means there’s no telling which side will pitch up on the day. However, the dangling carrot that is All Black selection may serve to drive the players on, especially the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and the Ioane brothers. Let’s hope that this, coupled with the Blues longing for a return to play-off rugby, pushes them to playing an exciting, high-tempo game this Friday.

Reds
The Queenslanders loss to the Force last week, while surprising, was certainly not unforeseen given the manner of their performance at the Suncorp last week. They were in it for much of the nearly the entire contest, but a lack of concentration on defence in the final 20-minutes allowed the Force to take the game away from them in the end. Similar defensive slip-ups against a side that has the likes of SBW and Rieko Ioane to call upon will kill off the Reds challenge, and a fully-focused eighty-minutes of football is required if they are to pull off an upset here.

The Force loss wasn’t all doom-and-gloom, however. Wallaby captain Stephen Moore managed two scores as he continues to find his best form, while another consistent display from Quade Cooper would not have gone unnoticed by Michael Cheika. An away win over the Blues is certainly not out of this team’s reach, especially since they aren’t playing at Eden Park, and the Reds will believe they have what it takes this Friday.

Verdict: Reds 5/1
This decision may come back to bite me, but I sense an upset on the cards. The Blues have the ability to put 40-points past you one day, and then concede 40 the next. I feel that the Reds may be building some kind of momentum despite their loss last week, and I’m backing them to just sneak this one before the June Tests kick-off.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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