The Aussies are in for another hard slog as round 3 of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman dawns on the horizon.
Kiwi dominance continued this past weekend as all the Australian sides suffered defeats at the hands of their Trans-Tasman rivals. To make matters worse for the Australians, the reigning Super Rugby AU Champions, the Queensland Reds, were torn apart by the Super Rugby Aotearoa champions, the Crusaders, this past Saturday.
The Australian franchises will be looking to hit back in Round 3 but do they have any chance with the Kiwi sides in such solid form?
Hurricanes v Western Force
Friday 28 June
To Win (80 Mins)
Hurricanes (-22.5) 9/10
Force (+22.5) 9/10
We open things up at the Westpac Stadium where the stuttering Hurricanes will take on a plucky Western Force outfit.
The ‘Canes have been decent entertainment value since the outset of the tournament but they are yet to clear a handicap and have failed to put in a solid 80-minute shift. They were at their attacking best in the opening round as they hammered a weak Waratahs side 48-64, but they were woeful on defence during that game.
The return of Ngani Laumape last week saw them put in a more solid defensive shift as they beat the Rebels 35-13. They did lack a bit on attack during this game and this is probably due to the fact that Orbyn Ledger replaced impressive youngster Reuben Love at fly-half.
I would not be surprised to see Love come back into the starting lineup as he offers a lot more with ball-in-hand than Ledger does.
While the Canes have taken an expansive approach to their games, Force have been a lot more conservative. This more cautious approach has also reaped rewards for the Perth based Franchise as they went down by just a point to the Chiefs in Round 1 and by just ten points to the Highlanders in Round 2. They’re likely to try and turn this one into an arm wrestle as well and they have the forward pack to do so.
Verdict: Hurricanes (-22.5) 9/10
I think the ‘Canes will cause the Force all sorts of problems. Don’t get me wrong, the Force are a decent enough side but the ‘Canes have the players to bully them in open play.
Waratahs v Crusaders
Saturday 29 May
To Win (80 Mins)
Waratahs (+31.5) 9/10
Crusaders (-31.5) 9/10
The Waratahs and Crusaders will square off in the next clash. Things could get pretty ugly for the Waratahs should the Crusaders turn it on like they did against the Reds last Saturday.
The reigning Super Rugby champs were in sensational touch during that 28-63 win with Ritchie Mo’unga pulling the strings and putting in a flawless shift. The Crusaders will be somewhat disappointed with the fact that they conceded a few late tries.
While the ‘Saders will still be looking for a big win to push up their points differential, we could well see some changes here which could well include Quentin Strange coming in for workhorse Sam Whitelock and Dallas McLeod getting a run in the centres and David Havilli switching to 15 to take Will Jordan out of the firing line after the young sensation had a bit of a shocker against the Reds.
While the Crusaders were in emphatic form this past weekend, the Waratahs were struggling again as they were beaten 48-21 by the Blues. There are positives for the ‘Tahs to take from the game, however, as they once again demonstrated they are able to score tries. Defence is still a major issue for the Super Rugby AU whipping boys.
Verdict: Waratahs (+31.5) 9/10
It’s simply too big a handicap. I know the Waratahs have shipped points but it’s still just too big for my liking. My advice is to watch the first 15 minutes of the game and see how it’s going and then get on the Crusaders overs points in-running – I reckon they’ll notch up at least 55 this weekend.
Blues v Brumbies
Saturday 28 May
To Win (80 Mins)
Blues (-14.5) 9/10
Brumbies (+14.5) 9/10
We move onto Saturday’s penultimate game now which sees a bang in form Blues side take on a Brumbies outfit who were thoroughly outclassed by the Chiefs this past weekend.
The hosts currently lie at the top of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman standings having bagged two bonus-point wins from their opening two fixtures. They also have the best points differential in the tournament at +74.
They have been mightily impressive on both defence and attack having only conceded 24 points at an average of 12 per game while scoring 98 at an average of 49 points per game.
It must be noted, however, that their two games have been against relative cannon-fodder in the form an extremely poor Rebels side and a Waratahs teams who are working through a massive rebuild. The Brumbies should offer the Blues far more of a test this weekend.
Last Saturday’s 40-19 loss to the Chiefs must have been extremely frustrating for the Brumbies’ coaching staff. The Super Rugby AU runners-up had given such a good account of themselves in the opening round of the Trans-Tasman tournament as they went down by just two points to the Crusaders.
They looked a completely different team this past weekend, however, with the Chiefs targeting young pivot Noah Lolesio putting the Brumbies under all sorts of pressure. The Blues are likely to put similar emphasis on closing Lolesio down at Eden Park.
Verdict: Blues (-14.5) 9/10
The Chiefs demonstrated how to beat the Brumbies last weekend and I reckon the Blues will use the exact same blueprint. Expect TJ Faine and Otere Black to rush Lolesio at any given opportunity. Expect the Blues to win by a lot.
Reds v Chiefs
Saturday 28 June
To Win (80 Mins)
Reds (+7.5) 9/10
Chiefs (-7.5) 9/10
We close out Saturday’s action out in Brisbane where the Reds will be looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat to the Crusaders when they take on a Chiefs side that put in a great shift against the Brumbies last weekend.
The Reds have endured a very poor start to Super Rugby Trans-Tasman going down 40-19 to the Highlanders in Round 1 and then 28-63 to the Crusaders in Round 2.
If the Reds are to improve they are going to have to change their game plan somewhat. While they were able to outscore opponents in Super Rugby AU, they can’t get into try-scoring shootouts against the Kiwi teams as they will lose every time. As such, they are going to have to try and shore up the defensive side of their game.
The Chiefs had an absolute field day against the Brumbies last weekend as they were at their free-flowing best running in multiple tries. It was just the response the men from Waikato needed after they scraped to a two-point opening-round win against the Force a week prior.
Verdict: Chiefs (-7.5) 9/10
This seems like a criminally small handicap based on the events of last week. I’ll be tucking into this ‘cap.
Highlanders v Rebels
Sunday 29 May
Queenstown Events Centre
To Win (80 Mins)
Handicap (Handicap not available at time of publishing)
We get our first taste of Sunday Super Rugby Trans-Tasman action this coming weekend as the Highlanders and Rebels will close out the round in Queenstown.
The hosts have enjoyed a solid start to the campaign securing wins over the Reds (40-29) and the Force (15-21). They will be looking to pile on the points here as, despite winning their opening two games, they still sit three places off the top of the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman standings.
They have the perfect opportunity to improve their log standing and their points differential this coming weekend as the Rebels have been horrendous since the start of the campaign. The men from Melbourne currently sit at the foot of the standings and have a points differential of -69. They have struggled to create try-scoring opportunities and lack a cutting edge on attack.
Verdict: Highlanders (-)
I can’t see the rebels competing here. They have really struggled to create try-scoring opportunities and the Highlanders are a decent defensive side.