The Rugby this weekend has all the promise of a politician on election eve. Key games across the weekend and plenty of teams playing with it all on the line. Chuck in ANZAC Traditions and cross Tasman match ups and emotions will be high. I can’t wait!
Movers and Shakers
There was plenty of movement on the tipping ladder last round with a real mixed bag of results. The Rhumdoggs held onto their ever so slender lead and now tops the table by one point. One of the most consistent performers of the comp, DenisO, had a shocker and plummeted from second to equal fifth which shows that it can take ages to move up the ladder but one poor week and you can fall a long way! Tipper of the round though, goes to Ozymandias who nailed all 6 games to get a perfect round taking them up to equal second, one point off the lead.
The Big Games
I’ve checked out the fixtures and am eyeing off 3 games as must watch this weekend. These are the stuff that dreams are made of and the two ANZAC Day fixtures are the top of my list.
The first game of the round sees the Waratahs travel to Auckland to play the Blues. The Tahs have been playing some brilliant Rugby at times but still seem to be lacking ‘something’; I just can’t put my finger on what it is. They have the size and they have the skills but I’m not sure they are realising their full potential yet.
The Blues on the other hand are so similar yet so different at the same time. A team with massive potential but are getting more and more disappointing as the season wears on. The Blues have history on their side in the head to heads but only just. The previous results have also favoured the home side; the last away win between the two teams was in 2009 but that was a Tahs victory. When it comes to your precious tip though, I think the key is to keep it simple in this game. One team is on the up (just) and the other is on a bit of a slide.
The second game of the evening has the Brumbies hosting the Chiefs in the nation’s capital. A tantalising match up if ever I’ve seen one. Both teams are leading their respective conferences and both teams sit on 25 points. The curious stat though is that the Chiefs have achieved their 25 points with 2 fewer wins than the Brumbies making up for the shortfall with bonus points (5 versus 1 for the Brumbies).
Here’s something else to consider; the Chiefs record against Australian opposition has not been great in the last couple of years. Only just maintaining a 50% win rate against the Aussies. The Brumbies have the history and the home ground advantage on their side and are favoured by the bookies. A conservative tip would go straight onto the home side but if the Chiefs get up, it won’t be much of an upset. I’m going to sit on the fence here.
The last of my three top matches features the Hurricanes and the Reds. This game is being played in Wellington on Saturday evening and is a bit of a do or die match for both teams. After a slow start to the season, the Canes are on a roll. Their combinations are really clicking right now and they can score points from almost anywhere on the field. The Reds are only just hanging in there after a very up and down start to the season. Some say that their season can still be salvaged but I think most would agree that without a win this weekend, they can start planning for 2015.
The Reds traditionally don’t go well against the Canes and their record in Wellington is equally poor but they have plenty of reasons to get up for this one. The Canes too have everything to play for. Sitting 3rd in the NZ conference, with the Crusaders on a bye and the Chiefs playing the Brumbies away, jumping to the top of the NZ conference is not out of the question this week. Head says Canes, heart as always, says Reds. I think you know who to tip.
There’s no real sure fire things this weekend, such is the quality of the Rugby in store for us. I’m sure that a few of you will have your Jokers on either the Tahs or the Brumbies although I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that. Both teams are heavily backed in the tipping suggesting that they are a safe option. The Force are also attracting the Lions share of the tips in their match against the Bulls but again, putting my Joker on that result makes me feel a little uneasy.
The big stand out then is the competition leaders, The Sharks. Playing at home against the Highlanders. They’ve only dropped one game this season and whilst their formula isn’t bagging them many bonus points, it is still a winning one. The Highlanders have been there or thereabouts in most of their games and a point here and there going their way would have them sitting much higher on the log, but the truth of the matter is that winning teams win the tight ones. It’s hard to see the Highlanders getting too close in this one so lock your joker in on the Sharks and enjoy 2 easy points.