The opening round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman was a 5-0 landslide to the Kiwi teams. There was still money to be made with our tip of a Crusaders 1-12pt victory over the Brumbies delivering a juicy win at $4. Round Two offers some big value too for the believers.
Fri, May 21, Sky Stadium, Wellington 5:05pm (AEST)
Where do you go after scoring 10 tries and 64 points against the Waratahs? Well, heaping more pain on the Rebels. At home, the Hurricanes look to have all the firepower to belt the Rebels. All Blacks centre Ngani Laumape returns for the ‘Canes. He's a beast and wants to make a farewell bang before heading to French club Stade Francais. Fullback Jordie Barrett is another big attacking factor. The mute button on a landslide score is the clunky-ness that new halves Jonathan Taumateine and Orbyn Leger may have on the flow of the attack. A clear Hurricanes’ win but no 64-point repeat against a much superior defensive side. Carter Gordon is earning his first starting job at No.10 for the Rebels. The kid from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is a strong tackler so he has the mettle to stand up. Just a bit worried about an intercept when he snaps those long, cutout passes of his. Matt Toomua is at inside centre.
Fri, May 21, HBF Park, Perth, 7:45pm (AEST)
The Force have to win this one. This is no doomsday prediction but they might not win another with three games on the road in New Zealand after this. The Force will have been empowered by their effort against the Chiefs even though it was a 20-19 loss. They have more of a handle on the speed at which the Kiwis will come at them. Big defence and slowing the Kiwis’ ball delivery down are vital to get close again. The Force are going with a much bigger pack with Sitaleki Timani back at lock and Tim Anstee and Fergus Lee-Warner in the backrow. The Force need that pack power to count. There is a settled look to the Force outfit which is good. The Highlanders definitely have the greater scorepower and All Blacks backrower Shannon Frizell is back for them. Should be an excellent contest and the Force can go close again on home turf.
Sat, May 22, Eden Park, Auckland 2:5pm (AEST)
The Waratahs were conceding 36 points a game even before running into a rampant Hurricanes’ side in Round One. The one good thing about giving up 64 points was lock Hugh Sinclair’s honesty...”soft”...”third, fourth grade level.” He was right too. It’s hard to see the Waratahs’ shabby, disconnected backline defence miraculously tightening in a week so expect some Blues’ tries. The Waratahs’ attack has improved big time but you just don’t outrun the Blues at Eden Park. This score could get messy too. This is a big test of Waratahs’ character. The Waratahs are trying to change. Selecting James Turner on the wing is directly rewarding a high-performing Shute Shield performer.
Sat, May 22, FMG Stadium, Hamilton 5:05pm (AEST)
You have to admire the Brumbies. Another top-strength side has been picked to try for a win over the Chiefs. That means all those strong combos that performed against the Crusaders are there again...Simone and Ikitau in the centres, Banks at fullback, Wright on the wing and a Valetini-powered backrow. No Nic White (hip) at scrumhalf is a major blow. You have to fancy the Brumbies going close in this one. The Chiefs have recalled 37-year-old talisman Liam Messam to the backrow. He never turns in a bad game. Damian McKenzie has been in hot form all season. Another learning game for Brumbies’ No.10 Noah Lolesio. It would be huge if he could pilot a win on Kiwi soil against McKenzie to take the next step. The Brumbies have every chance in this one.
Sat, May 22, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 7:45pm (AEST)
This is the blockbuster Super Rugby Trans-Tasman has been waiting for. Going to predict a Reds’ victory. There, I said it. Getting Hunter Paisami back to be a direct, line-bending runner in the centres is huge. It adds 20 per cent to the Reds’ potency because the Stewart-Flook centre pairing lacked thrust. Starting Suliasi Vunivalu on the wing is the big-bodied weapon that is needed too. Up front, No.8 Harry Wilson is back from a head knock. He had 21 big ball-carries for 110m against the Crusaders early last season and became a Wallaby because of it. He’ll be up for it. Likewise, Taniela Tupou and the rest of the pack. I like Fraser McReight and Liam Wright both being in the backrow to pilfer and strangle the Crusaders' quick ball. It should be a terrific spectacle and a Reds’ win would totally enliven Super Rugby TT. No Scott Barrett is a loss for the Crusaders. The return of fullback Will Jordan is a plus because everyone should get to ogle at his speed and game-turning attack. Reds to win.
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