At the naming of the Reds’ side to take on the Cheetahs this Sunday, Coach Phil Mooney was at pains to offer the usual platitudes when a team is a raging favourite and facing a virtually un-backable outsider.
“We won’t be under-estimating the Cheetahs on Sunday, they’re a side with a lot of ability that hasn’t had much luck in starting the season.” offered Mooney. Surely this is coach speak for “If we don’t roll these guys by at least 20, I’m gonna be mightily pissed off!”
Whether the Cheetahs have been unlucky is irrelevant, the relevant point is, the Reds two losses have come at the hands of squandered opportunities and break-down turnovers, not from the cruel hand of lady luck as Mooney suggested earlier this week.
The return of Madness McMeniman will go some way to helping stem the constant flow of turnovers and perhaps add some much needed vigour to the Reds recent defensive efforts.
The magic roundabout that is the Reds half-back position continues with Ben Lucas getting first turn this week, this probably has more to do with the lack of goal kicking options rather than pure form.
The rest of the side is unchanged with Diggers Ioane once again lining up at outside centre. Let’s hope Diggers’s form continues as I have made him captain of my Fantasy XV for this week – quite and honour for him I should imagine!
The Reds must work more effectively at the breakdown, getting numbers there doesn’t seem to be the problem, it is the lack of impact that the first few troops are having with the clean-out. Light-weights like Brando Va’aulu, Peter Hynes and Berrick Barnes, as well as ‘ruck-novice’ Mungo McLinden, are getting dominated by their larger opponents when the Reds go wide, so it will be incumbent on Daniel Braid to cover plenty of ground again this week – particularly with Juan Smith lurking.
The Reds scrum held together last week (just) and the prospect of facing another monster Jappie pack would fill the tight five with a sense of foreboding I’d imagine. If the pack can get through unscathed, or maybe attain parity, they purring Reds backline should be too much for the Cheetahs to handle.
The Reds have powered home in their last two starts but have sadly left themselves too much work to do from earlier mistakes and missed scoring chances. More intensity is needed after half-time as the Reds seem all too happy to allow their opposition to take the initiative and score points, this comes down to leadership, and is something the senior players must take responsibility for.
Nothing short of a bonus point victory will suffice this week for the Reds; otherwise their hopes of being in contention for a semi-final spot are sunk.
Cote says – Reds by 15