It’s not often that the Waratahs would hope the Reds have a win, but tonight will be one of those nights. A win by the Reds would go along way to securing the Tahs a finals spot, so long as a few other results drop as well.
There has been a pretty positive vibe around Ballymore during the week which was further enhanced with the news that Mungo McLinden, Berrick Barnes and Kev Horwill all being passed fit to play against the Canes.
Speaking to G&GR after Thursday training, Phil Mooney liked his teams’ chances for this week
“Training has been great this week and the boys are really focused. Getting those guys back has really given everyone a lift, things are looking pretty good.”
Probably not the first time Mooney has felt like that this season but, with the return of those three key players plus the reasonable performance of the dirty-dirties last week against the Saders, the Reds don’t have the cowered look of a team that is second last on the table.
Wellington will be a tough proposition however. Despite having their wings clipped by the Chiefs last week, the Canes are a team on the rise and will be a nightmare for the Reds to try and contain.
Ma’a Nonu is the focal point of their attack and is in the most consistent form of his up and down career. The counter point to Nonu’s bash and barge is the understated skill of Conrad Smith and it is this combination that allows the Canes to vary the way they attack with great effect. In front of Nonu and Smith is a brutal pack that keeps a constant supply of quality ball coming their way.
Both young Reds’ props, Laurie Weeks and Ben Daley have been success stories this year but it will be an extremely tough final examination for them to pass confronting behemoths, Neemia Tialata and John Schwalger.
Much will also depend on the ability of Sean Hardman to last the full game at hooker for the Reds as replacement Saia Faingaa is simply not up to it – although he did put in a decent cameo at open-side flanker last week after replacing Andrew Shaw.
It is hard to see where the points are going to come from tonight for the Reds, although Barnes is back, with both Marcia Hynes and Diggers missing, there simply does not look to be the quality required to score tries against an organised and willing defence.
But what the Reds specialise in is the unthinkable victory. The have shown against the Sharks and Blues that when things click, they are as good as any in the competition, trouble is, more often that not, things simply don’t click.
The Canes are at the final hurdle before the semis, and with the Reds ready to unleash thirteen weeks of frustration, I think the last hurdle will be too high for the Canes to clear.
Cote says – Reds by 5