We swept the Quarter-Finals last week with a perfect 4-0 record! So we’re looking to continue our form with the Semi-Finals starting this Saturday. The action kicks off in New Zealand with a huge battle between the high-flying Crusaders and the underdog Hurricanes. Then, we head to South Africa with Australia’s hopes ridding on the NSW Waratahs up against the mighty Lions.
It’s an all New Zealand affair in the first semi-final as the Crusaders host the Hurricanes. Last week, the Crusaders continued their dominance at this venue with a comfortable 40-10 win over the Sharks. They did start slowly with a 16-7 lead at half-time. But outscoring them 24-3 in the second half saw them reach this final. They’ve not lost in 9 games at AMI Stadium this season and the last 3 have been via a 13+ margin. However, this should be a whole lot closer. The Hurricanes were the only side to keep the Crusaders attack under 30 points at this venue in 2018. They went down 24-13 in the end and will need to show the same defensive pressure in this final. They beat the Chiefs 32-31 last week, which did flatter the Chiefs as the Hurricanes deserved to win by more. As mentioned the Crusaders won the last meeting at this venue and they’ve also won 4 of the previous finals against them. So they’ll obviously be warm favourites in the betting. While I agree the Crusaders should win this based on their form at the moment. However, I feel they’ve been up for a long time and the Hurricanes should be able to keep them contained near the try-line. They ranked 2nd in Super Rugby for points allowed on the road in 2018. While on offence, they were a decent side as they scored 25 points per game. The Crusaders also recorded just 18 points per game allowed when they’re the home side. Which should mean this will be a low scoring final. In terms of the line, the Hurricanes hold an 11-4 record in night matches in this matchup since 2010. When the Crusaders are the favourite in the betting odds, the Hurricanes have covered in 7 of 10.
The Lions will meet the Waratahs in the second semi-final at Emirates Airline Park. For the home side, they got the job done last week with a 17 point win over the Jaguares. Leading 24-9 at half-time, the Lions were never really challenged. They’ve now won 4 in a row at this venue and finished the season as the 3rd best home scoring team. The last standing Australian team is the NSW Waratahs and they won through to this matchup with an upset over the Highlanders. Down at half-time (23-6), the Waratahs produced an incredible comeback as they scored 24 unanswered points in the second half. Bernard Foley crossed the line twice in the victory and he’ll look to lead his side into the Grand Final. The 2014 season was their last appearance in the Grand Final, which was a 33-32 win over the Crusaders. Meanwhile, the Lions are aiming for their 3rd straight appearance in the final and their first ever Super Rugby title. So the stakes could not be higher for both sides. In the head to head, they did meet this season and the Lions shutout the Waratahs 29-0 in April at Allianz Stadium. They’ve now 3 in a row against NSW and smashed them at this venue in 2017 by a score of 55-36. But this has a similar feel to the first semi-final where the away side is showing good form when they travel. The Waratahs were the best scoring team in Super Rugby on the road and the Lions aren’t a great defensive side at home. So that’s where the Waratahs attack can have success in this matchup. There’s no doubt they’ll have that 29-0 loss in the back of their minds as well. So I can see the Waratahs getting within 9.5 points and possibly causing an upset.
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