In dispatching the Stormers from the finals last weekend, the Crusaders relied on Dan Carter’s kicking tee rather than pressing for territory and tries. Carter kicked five penalty goals from seven attempts and was taking shots from beyond halfway. What does this mean for the Reds? Come Saturday, will they be vulnerable to being pushed out of the game three points at a time?
Before we look at the Reds’ susceptibility, let’s review how the Crusaders see penalties tactically. They have two approaches to the laws of the game, one for each half of the field. In their opponents’ half they give away plenty of penalties; back in their own territory they pull their heads in and yield very few. They know how much those three-pointers hurt.
Have a look at the penalties they’ve conceded and the goals scored against them in recent matches, starting with their clash with the Reds in Round 15:
How about that last line? Seventeen penalties conceded, and apparently only one was in a position that tempted Peter Grant to call for his tee. No doubt the Stormers were chasing tries as the game started to slip out of reach, but that just shows how safe Carter’s boot had made it for the Saders.
Now, to the Reds. This table shows their yielded penalties and goals for same period:
I’m thinking that the Reds figured something out after the close call against the Cru and the loss to the Brumbies. They’ve cut their kickable penalties to two per match, even as they’ve been conceding more penalties overall. That’s an approach that is, in a word, Crusaderesque.
In Saturday’s final, it may not matter much whether Carter retains his kicking form or Cooper regains his, because neither side is going to yield many penalties in their own half. What about conversion attempts? I believe the Reds are going to run in one or two more meat pies than the Cru, so Carter’s tee won’t be decisive there either.
I think the Reds are going to win this match, because I can’t see where or how the Cru are going to score enough points to be in it. My tip: Reds by 10+.