Chiefs eye upset over Crusaders in Super Rugby decider

No team has ever beaten the Canterbury Crusaders at home in 24 post-season matches, let alone a final, but that is the task facing the Waikato Chiefs if they are to take the Super Rugby Aotearoa title away from Christchurch on Saturday. The Crusaders won the inaugural edition of the New Zealand competition last season […]

Chiefs eye upset over Crusaders in Super Rugby decider

No team has ever beaten the Canterbury Crusaders at home in 24 post-season matches, let alone a final, but that is the task facing the Waikato Chiefs if they are to take the Super Rugby Aotearoa title away from Christchurch on Saturday.

The Crusaders won the inaugural edition of the New Zealand competition last season without a final but the big red machine have claimed six of their record ten Super Rugby titles as hosts, with many of the finals not even close.

The Chiefs have already beaten the Crusaders once in Hamilton this year, however, and coach Clayton McMillan said his squad was heading south confident of what would be a major upset.

“On any given day, any team can be beaten, and we have proven that,” he said on Thursday.

“The Crusaders have set the benchmark for the competition and we respect they are a great side, but we have earned the right to be in the final and have a job to deliver on Saturday.”

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

McMillan, standing in for Warren Gatland this year while the former Wales coach carries out his British and Irish Lions duties, has overseen a remarkable turnaround at the Chiefs this season.

They battled back from 26-7 down at halftime to beat the Hurricanes in Wellington to snap an 11-match losing streak in Round 3 and did not lose again until last week, when they rested 11 players against the Auckland Blues.

Late penalties from the boot of Damian McKenzie decided the last three of the games in the five-match winning streak and the fleet-footed All Black returns to the starting line-up at fullback with Gatland’s son, Bryn, given the nod at flyhalf.

All Blacks skipper Sam Cane is a long-term injury casualty but the Chiefs pack will welcome back number eight Luke Jacobson from concussion, resulting in a shift to blindside for Fijian powerhouse Pita Gus Sowakula.

The Chiefs forwards will have to be at the top of their game to counter the home eight if they are to have any hope of a first win in Christchurch for five years and clinch a first Super Rugby title since their triumphs of 2012 and 2013.

Scott Robinson, who has led the Crusaders to four straight Super Rugby titles since taking over as coach, made only one change to his side from their last outing, bringing All Blacks centre Braydon Ennor back to the bench after a knee injury.

“Occasions like this are exactly what we play for, the chance to represent the people of our region on the big stage and play in front of our friends and family at home,” he said.

Source : The Roar More   

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Brumbies armed with tricks to topple Reds

Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa is sure the defending champions have come armed with the tricks and tactics necessary to slow the Queensland Reds’ scrum dominance in Saturday’s Super Rugby AU decider. The Reds have beaten the Brumbies in two tight comeback wins this season, turning the tables on the long-time powerhouses of Australian rugby who […]

Brumbies armed with tricks to topple Reds

Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa is sure the defending champions have come armed with the tricks and tactics necessary to slow the Queensland Reds’ scrum dominance in Saturday’s Super Rugby AU decider.

The Reds have beaten the Brumbies in two tight comeback wins this season, turning the tables on the long-time powerhouses of Australian rugby who pipped them in last year’s Canberra final.

But the true test will come in front of more than 40,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium, where the Reds will again be buoyed by Taniela Tupou’s scrum power and matured number ten James O’Connor.

Alaalatoa left Suncorp Stadium frustrated at their inability to stop what they knew was coming in their last encounter but says they’ve adjusted for what he and rival captain O’Connor are both describing as one of the biggest games of their careers.

“There’s a few ways we’ve spoken about and the Force last week, they scrum similar so it was a good hit out,” the prop said.

“We know it’s a strength of theirs and an area we both pride ourselves on – as well as the maul and line-out – but they’ve set the benchmark in the scrum.”

(Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

O’Connor, who has been happy to take the three points and accumulate on the back of their scrum penalties in a 7-1 season, expects a response from the Brumbies.

“For sure when you’re versing someone like Nella (Tupou) and Feao (Fotuaika) and BPA (hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa) you’re going to need a few tricks because they’re powerful men,” he said.

“We’ll see what they come with… it’ll be a mighty battle but I have a lot of confidence in my men.”

The Reds’ branding has claimed it is “their time” all season, their confidence drawing a reaction from Brumbies coach Dan McKellar earlier this week when he loaded the pressure on the hosts.

“I try and disregard everything that’s been said but when you’ve got a home final, played some great footy and beaten us twice, you automatically have that vibe,” Alaalatoa said.

Recalled as captain with Liam Wright benched, O’Connor insisted theirs was a healthy rivalry that had helped bring the code back from the brink after last season’s COVID-19 shutdown.

“There’s always mind games in footy. We respect them, know they’re great outfit but in a final it’s whoever wants it more, history doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Everyone talks about it being another game but it’s not, it’s a final and my mindset is that its the last game of the year, do or die.

“Forty thousand at Suncorp, it’s unreal… Australian rugby feels good, there’s a buzz around Brisbane and I don’t think I could have seen it developing in this way after a tough time.”

Source : The Roar More   

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