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The Crusaders host the Reds this evening at Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 5:05pm AEDT.
The last time the Reds beat the Crusaders, they drank beer from the silver octopus they won in the 2011 Super Rugby grand final in Suncorp Stadium. Since then, the two teams played seven times, with the same sad result for the Queenslanders.
The worst result was a 41-point loss under Richard Graham’s guidance in Christchurch. The best result was a narrow loss at home under Nick Stiles, which I witnessed live at Suncorp.
Brad Thorn had a crack at this former team last year when they lost in Christchurch by ten points. However, at close inspection, Scott Robertson’s boys had the Reds under the pump since the ninth minute after the South Islanders scored their second try.
At that time, it was the Crusaders’ 18th consecutive win which culminated eventually in their third Super Rugby title. Today, Robertson will aim for his third in a row this year, after losing away to the Chiefs by ten points in Round 2.
The Reds may have an opportunity to do well in this match considering the Robertson has selected fives rookies, including debutant Dallas McLeod at inside centre and a single-cap scrumhalf in 22-year-old Ere Enari. Enari will match up against 26-year-old two-cap Reds scrumhalf Scott Malolua.
Tate McDermott will return to the field from the bench today. Isaac Lucas returns to start the game as chief playmaker due to a James O’Connor ankle injury. The Reds’ front and back rows are intact. They will shore up some of the Queensland toughness by starting Lukhan Salakaia-Loto as loosehead lock, who will match up against the returning Crusaders captain Scott Barrett.
The Reds set piece was dismantled by the Sharks last week, and will need to redeem itself today. The Crusaders may be a bit rusty due to their week off – although that may just have been an opportunity to rest before getting stuck into their next victim.
Almost everyone believes the Reds will lose badly today. However, it is a chance for the Queenslanders to redeem themselves by playing well against a team injected with some rookies. If the Reds can defend well and finally execute their breakdowns for 80 minutes, they may cause an upset or narrow loss.
However, the Crusaders are too organised and dynamic. The Reds backrow is still too inexperienced. While their attack coach is excellent, the Reds’ game management, work in the loose scrum, defence, and place-kicking are all underwhelming. Maybe with the return of Bryce Hegarty they may improve that a bit.
Anyway, the Crusaders should clock a comfortable win this eventing. But except some big hits!
Kick-off: 5:05pm (AEDT)
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
TV: Fox Sports
Online: Kayo Sports, Foxtel
15 George Bridge, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Dallas McLeod, 11 Leicester Faingaanuku, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Ere Enari, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Tom Christie, 6 Cullen Grace, 5 Mitchell Dunshea, 4 Scott Barrett (captain), 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Brodie McAlister, 17 George Bower, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Sione Havili, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Brett Cameron, 23 Manasa Mataele
15 Jock Campbell, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Isaac Lucas, 9 Scott Malolua, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (captain), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith
Substitutes: 16 Ed Craig, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Fraser McReight, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Filipo Daugunu
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (SA)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (NZ), Brendon Pickerill (NZ)
TMO: Shane McDermot (NZ)