Match Preview - Reds vs Crusaders - Green and Gold Rugby

Match Preview – Reds vs Crusaders

Match Preview – Reds vs Crusaders

The St George Queensland Reds return to Suncorp Stadium for their first home game of the season after a very impressive first up effort in Dunedin.  The Crusaders will be looking to extend their record win streak but will be wary of this resurgent team that is hungry to win.


With it only being the second match of the Reds season and the changes they made in the off season, there’s not a lot to go on to gauge their “form”.  Certainly, looking at last week, they are a team on a definite upward trajectory.  They played exceptionally well and almost managed a very unlikely win in NZ which would’ve been their first since 2013 and the Highlanders first home loss in 12 matches.  It was a complete performance in all areas except for the scoreboard where they fell agonisingly short.

The Reds much vaunted scrum was strong again and will be a key part of their game again this weekend.  Kicking was mixed though.  Hegarty nailed all of his kicks at goal but kicking in general play was poorly executed at times.  The impact of Dave Aldred is already evident in the approach to kicking but the execution and decision making in general play is not quite there yet.  The Reds will be targeting an improvement here.

The Crusaders juggernaut on the other hand just keeps rolling on.  The defending champions are on a record 17 consecutive wins and looked extremely tight last week against an underwhelming Hurricanes outfit.  As with the Reds, they have 100% success with their scrum this season so far but unlike the Reds, their goal kicking accuracy is at a surprisingly low 44% for the 2 games played.  This could be a key point of difference.  The Crusaders are also one of the most penalised teams in the comp to date with an average of 13 penalties and 1 yellow card per match (compared to the Reds 8 and 0).

Another curious stat appears when you look at the tries by time period.  The Crusaders have yet to concede a first half try but are conceding on average 3.5 second half tries per game.  If the Reds can manage to get some early tries they may be well on their way to staging a significant upset!


The Reds

The Reds have named an unchanged backline to the one that started against the Highlanders.  In the forwards, Salakaia-Loto moves to the side of the scrum to make way for Harry Hockings which means the impressive Caleb Timu moves to the bench to bring some impact late in the game.  On the bench Fraser McReight and Harry Hoopert have missed selection to make way for the experienced heads of Scott Higginbotham and JP Smith, who are both returning from injury.

The Crusaders

The Crusaders have made a number of changes to the team that beat the Hurricanes so convincingly last week.  Firstly, Will Jordan comes into the 23 to start at fullback with the danger man Havili shifting back to the bench.  Mataele and Crotty  both missed selection this week, being replaced by Braydon Ennor and Tim Bateman respectively.  The starting and reserve scrumhalves switch roles from last week,  In the forwards only one change has been made in the back row with Tom Sanders starting and Jordan Taufua shifting back to the bench.


Key Match Ups

Jordan Petaia v Jack Goodhue – You can almost forget about all of the other key match ups because this is where it’s at.  Both players are rising stars for their respective nations and not really wanting to get too far ahead of myself but these two players could be lining up against each other in Test Rugby for years to come.  Goodhue’s impressive breakout year last year showed exactly what he is capable of.  On the other hand, if Petaia was not well known in New Zealand before last week, he will be now.

Jordan Petaia

Jordan Petaia

Reds Scrum v Crusaders Scrum – I might well be in the minority here, but I love scrums and this match up should be epic.  The Crusaders have selected the same forwards and only swapped a starting and reserve backrower giving an indication as to how they rate the Reds scrum.  The Reds welcome back star prop JP Smith and the experienced Scott Higginbotham which will bolster their already strong pack.  Starting 3 locks will also add some weight to what is possibly one of the heaviest scrums in the comp.  Both teams boast 100% scrum success so far.  It will be good too see who comes out on top.

Fearless Prediction

By any meaningful measure, the Crusaders are, and should be firm favourites.  The only team at longer odds to win this weekend is the Sunwolves who play the Chiefs.  When it comes to the Reds though, anyone that knows me or reads my stuff, will know that I don’t concern myself with silly stats and “evidence” when it comes to the Reds chances.  I tip with the heart and not with the head.  Even so, this section should possibly be renamed from “Fearless Prediction” to “Fanciful Prediction” but I digress.

As I said earlier, if we can nab a try or two in the first half (and I think we can) and defend as well as we did last week we should take a lead into half time.  If we can manage that then it’s game on!  Our bench should provide plenty of go forward and we could be the team to end the Crusaders record win streak.  I know the players will already believe this is possible.

Reds by 4.

Match Details

St George Queensland Reds

15 Bryce Hegarty
14 Chris Feauai-Sautia
13 Jordan Petaia
12 Samu Kerevi (C)
11 Sefa Naivalu
10 Hamish Stewart
9 Moses Sorovi
8 Angus Scott-Young
7 Liam Wright
6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loo
5 Harry Hockings
4 Izack Rodda
3 Taniela Tupou
2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa
1 Feao Fotuaika


16 Alex Mafi
17 JP Smith
18 Ruan Smith
19 Caleb Timu
20 Scott Higginbotham
21 Tate McDermott
22 Duncan Paia-aua
23 Isaac Lucas


15 Will Jordan
14 Braydon Ennor
13 Jack Goodhue
12 Tim Bateman
11 George Bridge
10 Richie Mo’unga
9 Mitchell Drummond
8 Whetukamokamo Douglas
7 Matt Todd (C)
6 Tom Sanders
5 Quinten Strange
4 Scott Barrett
3 Owen Franks
2 Andrew Makalio
1 Joe Moody


16 Ben Funnell
17 Harry Allan
18 Michael Alaalatoa
19 Luke Romano
20 Jordan Taufua
21 Bryn Hall
22 Mitchell Hunt
23 David Havili

Match Details

Date:  Saturday 2 March 2019
Venue:  Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off:  18:45 AEST
Referee:  Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees:  AJ Jacobs & Damon Murphy
Television match official:  George Ayoub


  • Human

    Well said Ross…I love your enthusiasm but reckon you are being modest in only tipping the Reds by 4…it could be a bloodbath at the Cauldron.

    • Ross

      Many would argue that I lost any credibility when I tipped the Reds but I had to have some element of reality in there. Crusaders will go down by two missed conversions.

  • laurence king

    I’d love the Reds to make a strong statement here and put all the other teams on notice. Crusaders are such a clinical team and strong across the park but I hope the reds out enthuse and over-power them.

    • Ross

      It’s going to be interesting Laurence. Both teams have very strong benches so a late match fade by either team is unlikely. The’ll hopefully be going hammer and tong until the death. Can’t wait!

  • Brendan Hume

    Hopefully this is another great game.

    I think the class of Todd and Mo’unga gets them home by 30, but the Reds won’t be disgraced by their performance.

    • Huw Tindall

      By 30? That would be a disgrace! Bang on about Todd and Mo’unga. Reds can match the Crusaders everywhere else except there.

  • Hoss

    Rossco – that’s what i like about you – when you’re right, you’re bloody well right.

    A humid Brissie nite, a slippery pill, a few young red bucks looking for a big scalp.

    Game on.

    • Ross

      Amen brother.

  • John Tynan

    Thanks Ross.
    Unfortunately I think a key match up will be Matt Todd vs Reds loosies and in particular their breakdown accuracy, especially attacking breakdown. Lukhan is not a 6 IMO, and while they’ve obviously sniffed some need for size and height in attacking hit ups and manned a bench for 80 minutes of this, I think breakdown support, defensive lines and breakdown pressure may be telling.
    Look for the Reds to be standing off at the tackle and not trying to contest much at all – wil this slow the ‘Sader machine down enough, or help them maintain front foot, line bending ball?

    • Ross

      I think this is one of my biggest worries with this squad, but more so with this particular 23. We have no real presence at the ruck other than big bodies hitting it as speed, which, don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful thing. We just desperately need an on-baller to disrupt and slow the opposition pill.

  • Simon

    I think the Reds are a chance in this. There’s something, perhaps the combination of complacency plus the energy-sapping effect of the Brisbane humidity, that makes a Suncorp game a bit of a banana peel for visiting teams. Everyone wrote the Reds off the last time these two sides met at Suncorp and the Reds ran out to a big lead and only lost due to a last minute penalty against Kerevi. Then last year they beat the eventual grand finalist Lions at Suncorp too.

    And this year’s team looks to be made of sterner stuff than either of the two previous years.

    • Ross

      This all makes perfect sense to me! There’s blood in the water….

  • Keith Butler

    Even though i’m a Rebels supporter cannot wait for this one. Clash of the titans upfront and I hope the Saders pack get their noses ground into the dirt. Will be a tough game because they are a class side. Go Reds.

  • Brumby Runner

    Hoping to see the Reds bring the winning streak to a halt for the Saders. Certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Wow! While I love the passion here I’m not sure that 1 game, that while very good, suddenly means the 2nd worst team in the worst conference is now better than the best team in the competition.
    I think the Crusaders are doing enough to build up for the finals and will be able to increase the pressure when they need to in order to stay in front.
    I’m sure the Reds will step up again but I think the Crusaders will be too strong and will take it by at least 9

    • laurence king

      Hope springs eternal my friend and everything you said is true but we are crossing our fingers…….and toes

    • Ross

      Hard to argue with that KRL… but I’ll try. Firstly, I don’t think we are better than the Crusaders – they are the benchmark, but that doesn’t mean we can’t beat them on a given day. Secondly, Yes we were the second worst (almost worst) team in the worst conference last year but a hell of a lot has changed over our off season, so while that is a tag we will have to shake, comparing us this season to last season is a little bit apples and oranges. Well maybe oranges and mandarins. I don’t know, actually, but I’m sure you get my point.
      What it boils down to is that if we were going to beat the Crusaders this season (a big ‘if’ admittedly) then I think this Saturday, at home, coming off a strong performance, against a Crusaders side that is missing some big names is our best chance and whilst a bit fanciful, not inconceivable.

    • Mica

      This is exactly how we want all Kiwis to think all of the time when they are playing any Australian side……. :)
      Keep selling that message KRL!!


    Why has no-one else picked up on the weird positional play of Hamish Stewart? He’s not playmaking… .field or place kicking, or exiting …..instead we have a relatively unwanted “journeyman” taking over his roles until at least DP gets on the field. Now I just can’t see the strategy there in keeping Hamish on the field and blocking a specialist FB or winger, centre or one of the many outside backs the reds have atm that are showing so much promise. Someone explain this one to me!

    • Adrian

      Agree re Stewart.
      I thought Hegarty good last week

    • Huw Tindall

      Hegarty plays more 10 for the Reds than does Beale for the Tahs. Really strange setup. I think the only reason he is 10 instead of Hegarty is because he is a legit frontline defender.

  • While I’m not a Reds fan per se, I’ve put my heart on my sleeve as a supporter of Thorn and my desire to see him do well as a coach.

    I don’t think your prediction is fanciful, I can understand how a true believer can write it with a straight face, but I’m not sure I agree. It could happen but the Crusaders seem to have thrown off that “slow starter” thing and just be rolling along comfortably. While this is a potential banana skin for them, I think their systems and fundamental familiarity with each other at too many positions will overcome the Reds.

    I’m not saying I don’t think the Reds are massively improved, but beating the Saders, even at home, is probably beyond them this early in 2019. They might be within a score though, and look good.

    • Jason

      Yeah, I’m not so sure. Reds add in last weeks missing ingredient – experience with Higgers, the Crusaders are resting a lot of their backs… The Reds took a bunch of kids to NZ now they lay at home and bring in another lock. Not some little Ned Hanigan type ‘lock’ I’m talking those big 120-125kg locks!

      The Reds will win this game early on. Every second the Crusaders are in the game in the second half is a second closer to defeat.

      • You could be right. Predictions are always easy to write and terribly hard to get right.

        If the Reds start like a train, the Saders could struggle, if they “merely” start well, I agree the visitors will grind their way back in over time.

        However, in the last two matches it’s been kind of the other way around for the guys in red and black. If that happens, it could be nasty for the home fans because I’m not sure that the Reds are quite resilient enough yet to bounce back.

        I’m going to really regret not being able to watch this one.

  • Larry Jorgensen

    I am not. The bubble will be broken.

  • Adrian

    I’m tipping Reds too, despite them being longshots.

    Hegarty most crucial player, as he has to deliver fast flat ball when he stands at 5/8.

    With fast flat ball, Kerevi and Petaia could run riot.

    When it is time to kick, Stewart needs to be there.

    Nonetheless, Hegarty’s field position kicking is better than any of Foley, Toomua and Beale at the end of 2018…but that’s another story

    • Huw Tindall

      Hegarty a great buy for the Reds hey. Fills a huge skills gap in their backline.

  • Happyman

    I am not ready to drink the Kool Aid just yet but I like your optimism. My heart says the Reds and I think it will be close but the Saders by 5

    i always wonder what might have been after the last Crusaders visit when we were stitched after the game with a rubbish call and a pen after the siren. The season seemed to spiral out of control shortly thereafter.

  • Mica

    Your not the only one Rossco – Scrums are a thing of beauty when your team has dominance.
    Not so good when your team has their skates on though……..


I love the Reds and I love the second row. That probably tells you all you need to know about me. I can often be found engaged in pointless arguments in the GaGR forums as 'Scoey".

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