Super Rugby Fixtures & Odds: The Grand Final Preview
After 18 weeks of venue and schedule changes, we’ve made it. Super Rugby Pacific 2022 has the final it deserves as the Blues take on the Crusaders in front of a full Eden Park on Saturday night.
They both got there in very different circumstances, however both semi-finals were close run games and betting sites predict this one will be no different.
Make no mistake: this is a huge chapter in a long rivalry that predates Super Rugby entirely.
Auckland and Canterbury are the two most successful provinces in the country and represent the best of the North and South Islands respectively. Before the Blues and Crusaders, the blue and white against the red and black was generally seen as the biggest game of the year and a real decider in terms of rugby supremacy.
Will that count for much on Saturday night? It’s probably in the back of the mind of the players, but really they will be thinking about the last time they met, back in Round Nine.
The 27-23 win by the Blues at Orangetheory Stadium was undoubtedly the game of the competition and will take some beating as the best you’ll see this year.
It was the Blues’ first win in Christchurch since 2004 and really laid down a marker for their title credentials.
What Happened Last Week
The Crusaders tackled their way to a 20-7 win over the Chiefs that featured a scoreless second half last Friday night. They did so without the services of Ethan Blackadder, who is out for the season with a shoulder injury, but his replacement Cullen Grace scored two crucial tries.
Pablo Matera got himself sent off but was cleared to play by the judiciary this week, who cited his ‘clean record’ that includes four yellow cards and a red.
While the Argentine captain will line up and probably play a big role in the Crusaders’ plans, his actions and considerable penalty count they racked up last week does little to stop the perception that they are, in fact, a very cynical team that pushes the law to its absolute limits.
Meanwhile, the Blues conceded an early try against the Brumbies, then looked to have the game sewn up at a rainy Eden Park before a late comeback by the visitors saw them squeak home 20-19.
Yes, it doesn’t matter if you win playoff games by one point or 100, but it was a bit too close for the home fans’ liking.
The game saw a rare Beauden Barrett dropped goal attempt, as well as another flawless kicking display from new All Black Stephen Perofeta.
What Will Happen On Saturday Night
17:05 Blues v Crusaders, Eden Park
The Blues come in having won 15 games in-a-row and are slight favourites with the best rugby betting sites. However, the last game they lost at Eden Park was against the Crusaders last year.
It looks as though the rain will stay away this weekend, however that may not guarantee an open and free-flowing game.
Both sides showed last weekend that they are more than happy to kick goals and grind out a low-scoring lead, so it’s hard to see how that will change if there have been few points scored in the first 20 minutes.
Discipline will be key. While every team has had to deal with losing players to the sin bin this year, the Crusaders have suffered three red cards. With Super Rugby’s 20-minute red card replacement rule, this hasn’t cost them a game yet, plus the aforementioned light rulings of the judiciary have helped too.
In short, this will be about as close to a test match as you can get. The chances of a lineout drive try from either side is high – both Kurt Eklund from the Blues and Codie Taylor from the Crusaders have racked up plenty so far this year.
Also, here’s a compelling stat from the last time they met: the Blues kicked 31 times to the Crusaders' 28.
Blues skipper Dalton Papalii has been bracketed on the bench after recovering from an emergency appendectomy a fortnight ago. His spot will be confirmed before kick-off.
1 Alex Hodgman, 2. Kurt Eklund, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Josh Goodhue, 5. Tom Robinson, 6. Akira Ioane, 7. Adrian Choat, 8. Hoskins Sotutu, 9. Finlay Christie, 10. Beauden Barrett, 11. AJ Lam, 12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Mark Telea, 15. Stephen Perofeta.
Reserves: 16. Soane Vikena 17. Karl Tu'inukuafe 18. Ofa Tuungafasi 19. Luke Romano 20. Dalton Papalii or James Tucker 21. Sam Nock, 22. Bryce Heem 23. Zarn Sullivan
1 George Bower, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Oli Jager, 4. Scott Barrett (c), 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Pablo Matera, 7. Tom Christie, 8. Cullen Grace, 9. Bryn Hall, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 11. Leicester Fainga'anuku, 12. David Havili, 13. Jack Goodhue, 14. Sevu Reece, 15. Will Jordan.
Reserves: 16. Brodie McAlister, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Quenten Strange, 20 Corey Kellow, 21 Mitch Drummond, 22 Braydon Ennor, 23 George Bridge
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