|Blues v Brumbies: Friday 5.35pm (AEST)
at Eden Park, Auckland
|Best Bet: Blues +1.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Triple Margin III – Any Other Result ($4.00)
The Brumbies’ tenuous grip on top spot on the Australian Conference ladder goes on the line in this tricky Auckland road trip.
The Blues are unchanged from last week’s loss to the Hurricanes. The Brumbies have made two changes, with Tomas Cubelli returning to replace Joe Powell at halfback, and Michael Wells coming in at No.8 to replace the injured Ben Hyne.
The teams have met 21 times previously, with the Blues chalking up 12 wins to the Brumbies’ nine. The Blues have an 8-4 advantage at home, including a 16-14 upset last year.
Now out of finals contention with a 6-1-6 record, the Blues have nevertheless been impressive in their recent outings, pushing the Crusaders at home and the Hurricanes away in gallant losses. The Blues are ranked 13th in attack and 11th in defence.
The Brumbies have won their last four, against the Bulls, Rebels, Sunwolves and Reds. Their 9-4 record sees them on top of the Australian Conference from the Waratahs on percentages. They are ranked fifth in attack and sixth in defence.
In a Rugby Championship preview, Wallabies blindside Scott Fardy goes up against veteran All Blacks No.6 Jerome Kaino.
Stats That Matter
The Blues are 6-7 against the start in 2016, while the Brumbies are 8-5 ATS this year. The Blues are 7-7 at home – overall and ATS – since the start of 2015. The Brumbies are 9-7 on the road – overall and against the start – during the same period. Home sides are 65-48-3 this season (62-55 against the start). Home underdogs are 7-29-3 overall and 19-20 ATS in 2016.
The Blues have been a victim of being in the heavyweight-laden NZ Conference, and are a vastly improved outfit in 2016. Although still poor away from home, they have been a consistently formidable team at Eden Park, unbeaten against overseas teams at home so far this season. The Brumbies are in a must-win situation and have experience and class across the paddock, but David Pocock’s ongoing absence is a major roadblock. The Blues are great value as narrow underdogs here, while the 1-12 margins for both sides are shaping as the way to go.
The Way It’s Shaping
Blues by 3
Blues +1.5 ($1.90)