This game represents the master versus the apprentice. Watching the Reds oscillate from famine to feast then back again by playing their particular style of ‘attacking’ rugby, one can’t help but think they are trying to model their game on a team similar to the Blues.
What the Reds lack spectacularly is the ability to do the simple things well. To be able to control attacking ball, to secure tackle ball, to have a reliable line-out and scrum, and to build pressure.
All these core skills the Blues have shown in the last few weeks. They have taken on weaker opposition and made them pay through simple play that has allowed them to look flashy but belied their adherence to the unsexy stuff that makes winning rugby possible.
Despite tough talk earlier in the week, Coach Phil Mooney, has not made the changes he foreshadowed in the wake of the embarrassment that was the loss to the Lions. Indeed, the only player to feel the noose was the dextrously challenged, Leroy Houston. I suspect once the emotions settled and Moon’s looked around at the options, there simply were none, so it is more of the same this week.
Not much is expected of the Reds this week and this is where they feel the most comfortable so I don’t expect their performance to be the same anonymous dribble they produced last week. That is not to say they will beat the Blues, but more so, another glorious defeat might be in the offing for the visitors.
The Blues have chosen to rest some of their senior players so a touch of hubris may be something that will work in the Reds favour, but a win is simply not in the Reds against this sort of class.
If the Reds win, there should be a steward’s inquiry as it would be the biggest fix since Fine Cotton stormed home all those years ago at Eagle Farm on a sunny winter’s afternoon.
The Blues must keep winning to be finals bound so they won’t be the same shadow of a team the Reds beat when the upset the Sharks some weeks back. The Blues are simply a class above, and quality will always win out.
Cote says – Blues by 15
|Venue: North Harbour Stadium, North Harbour
Kick-off: Saturday 25 April, 5.30pm (local), 3.30pm (AEST)
Referee: Vinny Munro (NZL)
|Blues Tony Woodcock, Tom McCartney, Charlie Faumuina, Kurtis Haiu, Anthony Boric, Justin Collins, Josh Blackie, Chris Lowrey, Taniela Moa, Tasesa Lavea, Rudi Wulf, Isaia Toeava, Anthony Tuitavake, Joe Rokocoko, Paul Williams.|
|Replacements Keven Mealamu, Tevita Mailau, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Grayson Hart, Jimmy Gopperth, Michael Hobbs.|
|Reds Greg Holmes, Sean Hardman, Laurie Weeks, Van Humphries, James Horwill, Hugh McMeniman, Poutasi Luafutu, Ezra Taylor, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Brando Va’aulu, Berrick Barnes, Digby Ioane, Luke Morahan, Mark McLinden.|
|Replacements Saia Faingaa, Jack Kennedy, Adam Byrnes, Scott Higginbotham, Ben Lucas, Charlie Fetoai, Anthony Faingaa.|