The 2018 Super Rugby Grand Final will be played this Saturday at AMI Stadium from 5:35pm (AEST). The Crusaders are raging favourites, but can the Lions knock them off? This will be a re-match of last season’s finale but this time, it will be played in New Zealand. The Lions will be looking to avenge a 25-17 loss to the Crusaders.
The bookies are expecting another easy win for the Crusaders. The home side is currently paying just $1.05 after another dominant Super Rugby season. The Crusaders will be aiming for an incredible 17th straight win when they face the Lions. So far in this finals series, they’ve handled the Sharks 40-10 and the Hurricanes 30-12. Overall this season, they’ve recorded 10 straight wins at home. In those games, they average 38 points per game, which ranks 1st in Super Rugby. While in defence, they allow a tick under 18 points per game, which is the 2nd best team record. So they’re deserved favourites in this matchup.
Meanwhile for the Lions, they will play in their 3rd straight Grand Final. After 2 losses, they’ll be keen to finally break through and earn a maiden title. In 2016, they were no match for the Hurricanes as they went down 20-3, which was in New Zealand. Then in 2017, they earned a home final against the Crusaders which resulted in a close loss by 8 points. After a 14-1 record last season, they had a poor 2018 season for their high standards. They held a 9-7 win-loss record and have mainly struggled defensively. So that kind of explains the 18.5 point line. While they have scored 40 or more points in their last 2 victories against the Waratahs and Jaguares. Both games were at home and they were fairly poor in away games this season with a 3-5 record. Their last trip to New Zealand was back in May and they struggled. Going down to the Hurricanes 19-28 and the Highlanders 27-39. So they will need to turn in their very best performance to knock off the Crusaders.
In terms of the head to head, the Crusaders have the wood over the Lions with a 7-1 record since 2010. They met early in this season with a close battle going to the Crusaders. In South Africa, the two sides put on a defensive display as the Crusaders got the win again, 14-8. This will be the first meeting in New Zealand since 2015 after 4 straight matchups in South Africa. The home side has won the last 2, 34-6 and 46-19. However, the Lions have a much improved squad since those times.
While I can see the Crusaders winning this fairly comfortably, I think the line is much too high for a Grand Final. In the history of Super Rugby since 1996, only 4 finales out of 22 has the margin of 18.5 or more points saluted. The Lions are capable of scoring points which should help keep this matchup from becoming a blowout. They are the 4th best team in Super Rugby for points scored in away games and should be able to have some success against the strong Crusader defence. There’s also the extra motivation of finally ending their Super Rugby Grand Final drought. Some key line betting stats also give the Lions a good chance. They hold a 22-8 record against the line when they’re the away underdog and playing at night. They’re also 20-12 ATS after winning as the favourite in the betting. Also when the Crusaders have faced a finals side at this venue in 2018, the line record is 3-1 in the away side’s favour. So hopefully the Lions can find their defensive pressure and turn this Grand Final into a close affair. Enjoy the game!
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