Can the Queensland Reds do it again? Our Reds’ tip delivered a $3.17 winner last weekend with the strong showing for a 40-34 upset of the Chiefs in Townsville. The $1.91 winner on Hurricane Jordie Barrett being an “Anytime Tryscorer” against the Western Force showed again there is value to be had even when the ledger in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is 14-1 to the Kiwis. OK, let’s find some value in Round 4.
Fri, June 4, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch 5:05pm (AEST)
The line is set at only 29.5 points for this game, principally because the Crusaders have rested strike backs Richie Mo’unga and Sevu Reece as well as All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock. They are not even on the bench so there’s no cavalry for a points blitz over the final 20 minutes. Only the Crusaders could cover three such losses and keep their attacking structure because it’s ingrained throughout the squad. New flyhalf Fergus Blake is no Mo’unga but he does have NZ Under-20s pedigree. This is a hard game to get a gauge on. The Crusaders sit third on the table even though they are undefeated so they really have to be hungry for the bonus point to keep in contention for the Trans-Tasman final. The Force have been up for a long time and there will be a lull. This could be it. If they fall behind, the Force aren’t built to catch up two or three tries. Errors will compound into more Crusaders’ tries. The classy Jake Strachan has waited a long time to test his mettle in Super Rugby as a starter and it won’t get more torrid than at fullback in this one.
Fri, June 4, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 7:45pm (AEST)
That 33-3 first half against the Chiefs last weekend was high-voltage stuff from the Reds. The Reds played a lot more off halfback Tate McDermott in that game rather than off flyhalf James O’Connor as they have done for most of the season. It was a shift in game plan and a shift in just about everything from the Reds with errors being reduced and a real sharpening on defence. It also meant the Reds were challenging the Kiwi defence more as in the McDermott dash and perfect pass to put Isaac Henry over. There were 10 Reds’ starters playing excellent footy and that’s what it will take again to pressure, lead and beat the Blues. The Reds beat the Blues 29-28 on their visit to Suncorp Stadium in 2019. The Blues are ladder leaders and have potency everywhere, starting with Akira and Rieko Ioane. Red-haired Blues halfback Finlay Christie is a real sniper so the Reds have to make sure he doesn’t do a Tate McDermott on them. A big statement game for Australian rugby if they have one to make.
Sat, June 5, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 5:05pm (AEST)
The Highlanders are undefeated but fourth in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman and virtually no chance of making the final. That’s a tough equation. They have rested gun All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith and that trims 15 per cent off their precision because he’s good for 70-plus Rolls Royce touches a game. That might bring a better opponent back into the contest.
The Waratahs did produce some excellent passages against the Crusaders last weekend and try-scoring centre Izaia Perese was a standout on attack with his 11 runs for 82m with 10 tackle busts. Perese and the rest of the Waratahs are putting big effort into their defence but the cracks in their system are still alarming. How can you score 13 tries against Kiwi teams in three rounds but give up 24? The Waratahs are conceding an average of 55 points per game against the Kiwis. That’s farcical.
Sat, June 5, GIO Stadium, Canberra 7:45pm (AEST)
The Brumbies copped the worst end of the Trans-Tasman draw with three games in NZ to open. Basically, they were out of the competition before playing this first home game. They meet a Hurricanes’ side desperate to win with a bonus point to push towards a berth in the final.
The Brumbies have made some changes. Moving classy backs Nic White, Tom Wright and Irae Simone to the bench takes away a good bit of backline edge and organisation.
Ryan Lonergan starts at halfback instead of White.
Up front, the Brumbies have rewarded Luke Reimer with his first start in the backrow. The Hurricanes will call on All Blacks weapon Ardie Savea, who is a classic game-breaker.
It’s been six weeks since the Brumbies played at home so they will relish that and the chance to perform in the special Pasifika jersey struck for this round.
Sun, May 6, Leichhardt Oval, Sydney 3pm (AEST)
This is an interesting one. The only Kiwi side to record a loss is effectively out of the competition and stuck in Sydney for this “home game” because of Melbourne’s lockdown. The Melbourne Rebels are a resilient bunch and will have to be again with another tweak to their travel plans.
The Chiefs are also without ringmaster Damian McKenzie, who copped a three-match ban for his high tackle on Reds’ halfback Tate McDermott last weekend. That does strip the best attacker from the Chiefs’ side even though they still have threats everywhere. They came back from 33-3 down to lose 40-34 to the Reds with no McKenzie for that 40 minutes. That’s what they can still do without him.
Credit to the Rebels. They kept fighting against the Highlanders last weekend. Winger Marika Koroibete finally scored his first try of the season, as predicted, and young flyhalf Carter Gordon had a very handy game.
You still have to fancy the Chiefs but the suffocating Rebels' style of messing and slowing the breakdown, with guys like backrower Richard Hardwick, could pay dividends. For how long is the question? Forty or 50 minutes is not enough.
I think the Chiefs will be off.
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