A really interesting opening round of Super Rugby trans-Tasman, with three comfortable New Zealand wins and a couple of heartbreaking Australian losses.
The question now is going to be whether the comfortable wins just confirm suspicions, or whether the heartbreaking losses will see some recognition of the Australian sides.
Either way, this second week is going to see bounce back of some sort.
Whether that’s from the Rebels, Reds, and Hurricanes, or from the Crusaders and Chiefs is anyone’s guess. Some teams will have been enthused by their showing, and others will and should be really disappointed.
A big test for a number of teams – and a number of coaches – is already here.
LAST WEEK: Harry, Dan, Digger, and Geoff 5; The Crowd 4, Brett 3.
OVERALL: Dan 38, Harry 37, Geoff 36, The Crowd 35, Digger 33, Brett 31.
TIPS: HURRICANES, FORCE, BLUES, CHIEFS, CRUSADERS
It was an absolutely dire start to the Trans-Tasman competition for the Rebels, and a trip over to Wellington with a six-day turnaround means things get no easier in Round 2. It’ll be a surprise if the Canes don’t take their season points total to more than a century after this one.
The Western Force are going to become the first Australian team to beat a Kiwi Super Rugby side this year. Didn’t think I’d ever write those words, but here we are.
They matched it well with the Chiefs, will be considerably more rested than the Highlanders’ last opponents, and home-ground advantage is enough to nudge this one in their favour.
It’s nice to see the Waratahs click in attack, but they’d do well to model their defence on something other than melted Swiss cheese. Soft and full of holes is going to make for a rough outing against the Blues.
Then we have the two matches of the round. Both the Brumbies and Chiefs have improvement in them after last week’s showings, but we’ll likely see more from the latter as they return to their home deck. If they figure out how to keep 15 men on the field for most of the game, they should have enough to edge the Ponies.
The Reds will relish a chance to rebound from last week’s disappointment against the Crusaders, and this one could genuinely go either way. Queensland will be closer to full strength than they were last time out, but they’ll still be missing Hunter Paisami and Jordan Petaia.
If James O’Connor’s name is added to the injury list, it’s hard to see them toppling the visitors, and the Crusaders have the edge regardless of who the opposition flyhalf is.
SURE THING: The next kick after the 80-minute mark will go sailing over the black dot.
TIPS: HURRICANES, HIGHLANDERS, BLUES, CHIEFS, CRUSADERS.
Nothing will get easier for Australian teams in Round 2 of the Baby Bledisloe. The Canes may be leaky, but the Rebels have zero confidence and less attack, and this Wellington mob looks like they’ll score at least forty.
The Highlanders kick and defend better than the Chiefs; the Force will have to earn every point. I see this as an arm wrestle, and a foot wrestle. Aaron Smith is the best 9 in the world because he makes his teammates so much better.
I genuinely fear for the physical and mental health of the Waratahs as they face the stampeding Blues. Blues by 70.
The Brumbies should be competitive in Hamilton, they play the Chiefs well, and they travel the best of the Aussies. But I’ll tip Damian McKenzie to kick better and take the biscuits at home.
The Reds will probably win the first half. Then the Crusaders will crunch and bunch and have Tasman Thor for lunch.
SURE THING: it’s no picnic crossing the Ditch south-east if rugby’s on the menu.
TIPS: HURRICANES, HIGHLANDERS, BLUES, BRUMBIES, CRUSADERS
The good news for Hurricanes and Rebels fans is that there is only one way for their teams to go this week – upwards! But because the ‘Canes are starting from a higher point, they’re the obvious tip.
Hopefully, Stan Sport have fed the hamsters and we get to see more of the Perth match this week. The Force have the game to niggle and frustrate the Highlanders out of it, but I don’t like tipping against Aaron Smith.
To Saturday, and it’s the Blues by plenty. And because we’re due for an Australian win, and because their superior organisation often frustrates the Chiefs, it’s the Brumbies in Hamilton.
The Reds will be better this week, but stung by criticism of their shallow exit kicking, don’t be surprised if they get burned by kicking long to Will Jordan. Crusaders for mine.
SURE THING: The Waratahs won’t be scoring seven tries this week.
TIPS: HURRICANES, FORCE, BLUES, BRUMBIES, CRUSADERS
Friday night begins with the match of the round, a cracking start with the defenceless Hurricanes up against the attack-less Rebels. Mouth-watering stuff, ‘Canes by plenty please.
Over to Perth for the battle between the two scrappers of their respective comps where neither side really knows when they’re dead and despite the incredible form ole Aaron Smith is in, I will plump for the Force to get the first Aussie win on the board as I think they will frustrate the Highlanders out of the game, probably.
I expect the Waratahs to give as good as they get but suspect the Blues will prove too big and powerful and down in Hamilton, I believe the Chiefs are running out of legs and desperately need a breather and I fully expect the well-structured Brumbies to take advantage and register another Aussie win for the weekend.
And to top it all off in the battle of the champs, I simply do not like what the Reds are dishing up tactically at present, sure this can be fixed but I am unconvinced a week is enough time, and the Crusaders are the wrong side to try and turn it around against. Crusaders to win the battle of the Red jerseys.
SURE THING: I won’t have to blog any of the games through WhatsApp to Australians this weekend as I am sure STAN will have sorted their coverage issues, maybe.
TIPS: HURRICANES, FORCE, BLUES, BRUMBIES, CRUSADERS
Right then, I see Digger is back in ‘protecting the margin’ mode!
I’m going to jump around a bit for this week’s round because as a starting point, the Hurricanes and Blues at home, against tackle-shy Australian opposition, look as obvious as Fox Sports’ general pettiness towards anything to do with Australian rugby.
But then to follow, chalk me up for wins to the Western Force and Brumbies, thanks very much.
The Force will be buoyed hugely by last week’s near miss and look likely to play in front of their biggest crowd of the year which, if they can repeat the late-game noise and atmosphere from last week, will make for an intimidating environment for the Highlanders from the deep south, after three days of travel.
And I do think the Brumbies will win in Hamilton, but perhaps not because of the supposed good record they have over the Chiefs, as I’ve seen referenced a little bit this week.
Curious, I looked up the record, and though the Brumbies beat the Chiefs in Hamilton just 15 months ago, that win was their first in seven starts going back to 2009. But, having spent the week preparing in New Zealand, while the Cooks spent much of that time returning from Western Australia, the Brumbies look the goods this week.
That just leads me to Brisbane, and with lots of big questions the Reds need to answer ahead of the Champions versus Champions blockbuster.
I think they can bounce back after last week’s disappointment, and even hope they do, but I’m not sure it provides a level of confidence to pick them.
But I’ll certainly be pleased to get this one wrong.
SURE THING: After a disastrous platform failure on Saturday night, followed by crisis management by silence ever since, Stan Sport will see furious social media anger rain down upon them if they so much as make a spelling mistake this weekend.
They need the biggest bounce back of all this weekend.
|HUR v REB||HUR||HUR||HUR||HUR||HUR||HUR|
|FOR v HIG||HIG||FOR||FOR||FOR||HIG||HIG|
|BLU v WAR||BLU||BLU||BLU||BLU||BLU||BLU|
|CHI v BRU||CHI||BRU||CHI||BRU||BRU||CHI|
|RED v CRU||CRU||CRU||CRU||CRU||CRU||CRU|
Get your tips in now.