It’s taken seven rounds, but we finally have a perfect round. And it belongs to the Hairy Man.
In truth, there have been a number of mistake-free rounds to date – I, ahem, have been responsible for a couple of them – but all of them were in rounds with postponed games, so aren’t perfect rounds by technicality. Harry is now the first to pick all games scheduled for a single round. Bully for him.
And with the Brumbies’ unbeaten run coming to an end in Brisbane, me taking them in said game on account of wanting to avoid a unanimous line of tipping, and The Crowd ambitiously following me, it means we now have a three-way tie at the top. Which is where you would want one, I suppose.
Of course, the competition is still young enough this season that this isn’t the first time we’ve had a ménage situation at the top of the panel, but it’s interesting that the deadlock has returned. Last week felt like a week of possible movement, and so it turned out.
This week might be just as intriguing…
Last week: Harry 5, Geoff 4, Brett 4, The Crowd 4, Digger 3
Overall: Brett 30, Harry 30, The Crowd 30, Geoff 27, Digger 26
Moana Pasifika, Force, Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies, Hurricanes
The world is now restored. Order reinstalled. Up is up and down is down again. Dogs in their kennels, and cats feral in the woods.
I am back on top (with a few pals).
So, the winless and hairless Highlanders try to contain the risky, frisky Moana Pasifika. In Dunedin. I should tip the Clan. But at 0-6 and being led by a flyhalf without confidence, they seem like the runt of the Kiwi litter. Whereas Moana are able to bully the gain line. I predict the ‘Landers will try to dance with the newcomers and come off second best. Moana by a few mitches.
The centrifugal Force should just have enough to send the lawless Rebels away empty-handed. Force by a yellow card or two.
The Crusaders seem to have found something. Stacked with backs of consequence and fiery forwards (and look at their new young lock with the Irish name: he’s something), the perennial power will give the unlucky Hurricanes a bit of a hiding at the Cake Tin, I reckon.
Chiefs-Blues is the match of the round. I have absolutely no idea. The Blues are marginally the better team, but aren’t as healthy at the moment and have to go endure the cowbells. I suppose I’ll take the Hamiltonians by a cow. Not a bell.
The Drua will make the Brumbies work to close out the match, with their patented last 20 minutes of hell. But the Brumbies are a professional outfit with good tools. A win is a win, but by less than ten.
And to finish, the Wee Wind over the Pasifika by half a raccoon tail.
If we made all these commentators, full of aged stars with aching knees, play a proper match for 80 minutes under a real ref, they would be the first to want head shots to be outlawed. Convenient comfy couch carping about “the game going soft”. Bend your knees.
Highlanders, Rebels, Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies, Hurricanes
It’s taken a while to get there but the Zoolanders will finally notch their first win of the season, against Moana Pasifika.
Which throws us straight into the toughest match of the round to pick, from Perth; does the rule about sides always winning after the coach gets the arse apply if it happened on a bye week? The Rebels’ confidence is creeping back and training this week was slick. I think they can jag a second win.
With the try-scoring Israeli sniper back at the helm, the Hurricanes are going better than what many think. But I tipped against the Crusaders a couple of weeks back and it cost, big-time. The Chiefs versus Blues should be the match of the round, but I’ve been riding the Chiefs all season and have no reason to get off; even with big Brodie resting his thumb, they are a very good side.
Brumbies over the Drua is a no-brainer, while on Tuesday, the Hurricanes get a chance to take revenge on Moana Pasifika and won’t mess it up.
The judiciary will come out and explain, lucidly and logically, how Drua captain Nemani Nagusa copped an extra week’s suspension because of the need for “a deterrent for this type of conduct”, as opposed to no deterrent being required for conduct such as players flying into the breakdown at speed and hitting opponents in the head with their shoulder.
Highlanders, Force, Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies, Hurricanes
I’m not sure the Zoolanders will notch their first win this weekend, actually. I have picked them, but with no confidence at all, and only because I don’t have as much confidence in Moana Pasifika as Harry does.
(In fact, the cynic in me says that the Hairy Man is playing a longer game here and is trying to curry favour with the new boys. I smell a finger in a pie.)
The Force need to beat the Rebels at home, and I think they will. But there’s a but – this is exactly the kind of game they’ve been expected to win in the past and haven’t, and equally, it’s exactly the kind of game the Rebels have managed to win in the past despite their lead-in form.
You know how superannuation ads finish with the disclaimer, “past performance does not guarantee future returns”? That’s the Melbourne Rebels in this game. And that’s why the Force need to win. Because they need to.
Quickly, the Crusaders will cover the Hurricanes, the Brumbies will cover the Drua, and the Hurricanes will uncover themselves long enough to cover Moana Pasifika.
And that leaves the Battle of the Bombays. The Blues have won five straight, lost the one by a point, and none of us have picked them. If that doesn’t speak to their general Blues-ness, nothing will.
Will I buck this trend and tip against the trend? Hell no.
I will regret that last line by 7pm Saturday night.
Highlanders, Force, Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies, Hurricanes
Well, I am tipping about as well as my team is going, slipping well behind the pack and likely to keep on going, but that’s fine, just fine.
The Highlanders should put some frustration to bed and notch their first win, and I think the Force at home seem the most likely in what looks a tricky one to tip.
I really want to pick the Hurricanes but just cannot. The Crusaders should be too good, and I expect more musical chairs in the Canes’ backs to again prove unhelpful. However, I do think they should be able to even the head to head against the plucky Moana Pasifika.
Chiefs-Blues in Hamilton shapes as another tricky tip, and I really cannot make up my mind one way or another. I’ll settle for the hometown factor to play its part and plump for the Chiefs, while one expects the Brumbies to be a bit too organised for the Drua to really trouble them.
Jordie Barrett will hit the post again, Shannon Frizell will continue his quiet, understated, consistent form, Solomone Kata will crush someone, Richie Mo’unga will do something ridiculous, Alex Nankivell will again show he is quite possibly the most underrated back in the NZ game, and Tom Robinson will continue to look magnificent, even in Blue.
|Round 8||Harry||Geoff||Digger||Brett||The Crowd|
|HIG v MOA (Rd.5)||Moana Pasifika||Highlanders||Highlanders||Highlanders||Highlanders|
|FOR v REB||Force||Rebels||Force||Force||Force|
|HUR v CRU||Crusaders||Crusaders||Crusaders||Crusaders||Crusaders|
|CHI v BLU||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs|
|DRU v BRU||Brumbies||Brumbies||Brumbies||Brumbies||Brumbies|
|HUR v MOA (Rd.4)||Hurricanes||Hurricanes||Hurricanes||Hurricanes||Hurricanes|
Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon.