A fascinating Super Rugby Pacific final awaits, and though it looked far from certain over the closing rounds, there is a nice ‘cream rising to the top’ element to first versus second meeting on the final evening of the season.
And nine tries felt about right for a semi-final weekend. The scoring rates always slow as the season becomes more pointy, and over the closing stages we’ve dropped from upwards of ten tries per game, down to seven, and then nine tries across both semi-finals last weekend.
What maybe wasn’t quite expected, was that eight of them would come in one game. And that six of them would be from one team.
That one team does have an awful habit of finding form at this time of season, though, and 17 Finals in 28 seasons is just a truly phenomenal strike rate.
The tipping panel title is – and has been for several weeks – officially Digger’s. Having led by a good margin for a good while, his runaway lead has mirrored the Chiefs’ run in 2023. Or is his season domination more in line with what the Crusaders look poised at ready to deliver?
And as a proud Hurricanes man, which comparison make him more uncomfortable?
This week’s challenge: A winning margin, the first scoring play, and the time it’s scored. What’s your pick?
LAST WEEK: Geoff 2, Digger 2, Harry 2, Christy 2, Brett 1; The Crowd 1.
OVERALL: Digger 76, Christy 72, Brett 71, Geoff 66, Harry 65; The Crowd 70.
My humble thanks to all the guys for their enthusiasm and insights each week, and to you guys in The Crowd as well, not just for finding the panel and keeping the great preview discussions going each week, but for some generous tipping for the benefit of the panel. It’s all very much appreciated.
The Thursday International panel will back for the opening round of The Rugby Championship on July 6, and with a welcome return of our Argentinean correspondent!
TIPS: CHIEFS by 6
Is it just me or has this season flown by?
Certainly too fast to make ground up on Digger once he got ahead on the ladder. Let’s just write this season off to a rebuild, and look forward again to February, the best month of the year, a time when high expectations are yet to be weighed down by real events.
In the meantime, there’s a title to be won. I spent last Sunday mulling over the two semi-finals, coming to the conclusion that the final was simply too close to call and, unsurprisingly, nothing has changed since then.
The Crusaders know how to win finals, have momentum, and the desire to send Razor out a winner.
The Chiefs are bulging with talent, know how to defend, and have had to hang tough over the last fortnight and win the hard way. There’s only a bee’s appendage in it, but it feels like the Chiefs have the better preparation for a Grand Final.
Emoni Narawa to be the first scorer, with a Try in the seventh minute.
SURE THING: Snubbed by the All Blacks, Chiefs half-back Brad Weber will chuck a wobbly and fail to turn up. Snubbed by the Wallabies, ex-Chiefs half-back Tawera Kerr-Barlow will make a shock appearance in his place.
TIPS: CHIEFS by 3
Crusaders are doing Crusader things, looking mightily impressive as they do at exactly the right time of the year, and looking stronger every week.
And the motivation will be high, to send off some influential and franchise legends in the best way possible.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, have been the form horse for the season and they have the home ground advantage along with a number of their key players firing. Though if any side can overcome such obstacles, it is the Crusaders but how good can you say the Crusaders really have been?
The Chiefs have been tested in their finals matches, having to work hard, while the Crusaders, as good as they have played, have not had to deal with opposition firing on all cylinders.
The Chiefs appeal as more battle ready, they certainly have the starch in defence to disrupt the Crusaders and the strike power to win their third title and I think they will to cap off a remarkable season.
Shaun Stevenson to open things with a try, with the clock reading 12 minutes, 34 seconds.
SURE THING: Said it at the start, will say it at the end – Guru > Expert
Brett’s NOTE No.1: He’s the Crusaders…
TIPS: CHIEFS by 4
Despite a horrendous record this year, I have enjoyed it very much. Thanks, Brother Brett for allowing me not to be relegated to the Shute Shield of tipping. And now, the end.
I do not want a wooden spoon. I don’t think I need another one. Nowadays I just use an air fryer.
The best two teams are in the final. I assume Geoff will go with the form pick: the mighty break-dancers from the South.
But I feel the Chiefs play the best rugby and had the best finals tests.
Brett’s NOTE No.2: Ha, so about Geoff’s tip…
So, I say Damian McKenzie, the little Macca with the big sacka, will score the first and last points: both goals. The first at precisely 5:43.
I say the boys from the rainswept Waikato win by four points. No, three. No four. OK, four.
SURE THING: the best team will win.
TIPS: CRUSADERS by 1
And so there were two. Two New Zealand sides. Oh but of course there were.
Great season, great fun to engage in this year’s tipping comp. Bravo to Digger.
OK, onto the big dance. The last dance for Sam Whitelock and Richie Mo’unga. Oh, and Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson.
Playing for that trio, the Crusaders will get it done against Sam Cane’s mob from the North Island. Whitelock vs Retallick will be a beauty. As will of course Damian McKenzie vs Mo’unga.
First score will be a McKenzie penalty in the fourth minute.
SURE THING: The 10s will dominate the discussion, but just as intriguing are the matchups at hooker, inside centre and fullback.
TIPS: CHIEFS by 5
Well, this is surprising. I fully expected when I entered my tips into the sheet earlier in the week (after Harry and I declared ours on this week’s Eddie Jones pod – have you checked it out yet?) that we would be in the minority taking the Chiefs.
Just figured the Crusaders’ form had become rather ominous and even finals-like, pushing them title-adjacent.
But no, seems I’ve just blended in with the rest.
There is one team who has history of winning finals away from home, and of course it’s the bloody Crusaders, but I think the Chiefs are in prime position right now to take title number three.
Playing well, know their game backwards, injury list minimal, key players in form, and Damien McKenzie growing a new and arguably even more dangerous element to his game: patience.
It’s going to be close. Six points, three points, four points, one point, five points, we’ve said. I’m not sure it will be high-scoring though – which after the Crusaders have cracked a century of points in scoring 13 tries in Finals this year, will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Really looking forward to it. Really looking forward to an Instant Reaction pod shortly afterwards with no skin in the game – means I can just enjoy the occasion for what it will be. And it will be a great game.
SURE THING: For all these close margins, this Final now has blow-out written all over it. What is the bigger winning margin in a Super Rugby Final? To the record books!
|CHI (1) v (2) CRU||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Chiefs||Crusaders|
|winning margin||6 Points||3 Points||4 Points||5 Points||1 point||Announced|
|first scoring play||E. Narawa TRY||S. Stevenson TRY||D. McKenzie PG||L. Jacobson TRY||D. McKenzie PG||Friday|
|time of first score||7th minute||13th minute||6th minute||11th minute||4th minute||afternoon|
Who wins the Final? Have your say below – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon AEST.