The Crusaders will be far too strong for the Reds in Christchurch on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Kieran Read's men thrashed the Reds 58-17 at the same venue last year and it's difficult to see a different outcome in 2016. The Crusaders have scored 36 tries in eight games, while the Reds have only managed 19 in nine. Furthermore, the Crusaders have made 34 more offloads, 50 more clean breaks and conceded 26 fewer turnover penalties than the Reds.
The Crusaders are on a seven-match winning streak and will see the game against the Reds as an opportunity to close the gap between themselves and the Chiefs, who host the Highlanders, at the top of the Australasian group.
The Reds secured a confidence-boosting 30-17 win over the Cheetahs last weekend, but against a far superior team they will need to show greater awareness around the breakdown area and in defence. They have to minimise the impact of the Crusaders' back row in Read, Jordan Taufua and Matt Todd, who were at the forefront of their 40-14 win over the Brumbies in Canberra a fortnight ago.
The Reds boast the best scrum success rate and if they use it as their primary strike weapon, flyhalf Jake McIntyre will have the perfect platform to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
However, it will take more than a dominant scrum to throw the Crusaders off their game. Taking their defensive deficiencies into account, the Reds will have to slow the game down and be disruptive at the breakdown to have any chance of improving their record in Christchurch.
In team news, the Crusaders have made five changes, with props prop Mike Alaalatoa and Wyatt Crockett, lock Sam Whitelock, scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond and wing Johnny McNicholl coming in.
For the Reds, Chris Feauai-Sautia is back on the right wing and Queensland U20 star Campbell Magnay starts at outside centre in place of the injured Samu Kerevi.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Crusaders 16, Reds 6
In Christchurch: Crusaders 9, Reds 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Crusaders have won their last eight home matches against the Reds; the last time the Queensland side travelled to Christchurch and won was in 1999.
– The Crusaders have won their last seven matches in a row following an opening round loss; the last time they won more consecutive games was in 2008.
– A round-10 win against the Cheetahs means the Reds are on the hunt for consecutive Super Rugby victories for the first time since round 17 in 2014.
– The Crusaders have missed an average of only 14.1 tackles per game so far this season, the equal fewest of any team in the competition and more than six fewer per game than the Reds.
– The Crusaders have scored 10 tries in the opening quarter of games so far this year, more than any other team and double the Reds' tally (five).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Crusaders||Richie Mo'unga (90)||Richie Mo'unga, Nemani Nadolo (4)||Nemani Nadolo (549)||Matt Todd (65)|
|Reds||Jake McIntyre (80)||Nick Frisby, Samu Kerevi (4)||Samu Kerevi (628)||Jake McIntyre (65)|
Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 David Havili, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Mike Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor,1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Owen Franks, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tim Boys, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Ryan Crotty, 23 Marty McKenzie.
Reds – 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Campbell Magnay, 12 Anthony Fainga’a, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Curtis Browning, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ben Matwijow, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Andrew Ready, 1 James Slipper (c).
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 Sef Fa’agase, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 James Tuttle, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Junior Laloifi.
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), Kane McBride (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Wratt (New Zealand)
Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images