|Reds v Chiefs: Friday 7.40pm (AEST)
at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
|Best Bet: Chiefs -12.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Chiefs by 16-20 ($5.50)
The Reds are looking to finish another difficult campaign on a positive note when they host a Chiefs side that is aiming to maintain their place atop the powerful New Zealand Conference.
Wallabies lock Kane Douglas will make his first start for the Reds after making a successful return from injury off the bench last week, while Duncan Paia’aua is set to make his maiden Super Rugby start with flyhalf Jake McIntyre pulling out with an ankle complaint.
After missing selection in the NZ Sevens squad for the Rio Olympics, former Chiefs captain Liam Messam will come off the bench this weekend. Meanwhile, Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden return to the starting line-up, and Brodie Retallick has been rested, with Taleni Seu to start at lock.
The teams have met 19 times previously, with the Reds leading the count 10-9. The Reds hold a narrow 5-4 advantage in Brisbane, but the Chiefs won 24-3 at Suncorp Stadium last season.
The Reds’ last win was an unimpressive 35-25 result at home against the lowly Sunwolves, while they were hammered 43-24 by the Brumbies in Canberra last week. In 15th overall with a 3-9-1 record, the Reds are ranked 16th in attack and 15th in defence.
The Chiefs bounced back from their 20-point loss to the Waratahs in Sydney prior to the international break with a gritty 23-13 defeat of the Crusaders in Fiji in Round 15, leapfrogging their southern rivals into the NZ Conference lead. The Chiefs are second in attack but just ninth in defence.
What an assignment for Duncan Paia’aua in his starting debut. The former rugby league junior lines up against All Blacks No.10 Aaron Cruden, who returned from a worrying neck injury off the bench last weekend.
Stats That Matter
The Reds are 5-8 against the start in 2016, while the Chiefs are 8-5 ATS this year. The Reds have won four of their last five against the Chiefs, but the Chiefs have won three of their last four in Brisbane. The Reds are 5-8-1 at home since the start of last year (6-8 against the line). The Chiefs are 9-6 on the road since the start of 2015 (10-5 ATS). 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 Reds have had their young backline further disrupted by the injury to McIntryre and it would be optimistic to expect much cohesion out wide, while the electric Chiefs backs could have a field day with an inexperienced defensive combination. The Chiefs know how crucial it is to retain their top billing in the NZ Conference, and with the smell of finals footy in the air, expect the star-studded side to go for the jugular in pursuit of a bonus point. There’s plenty of points in this Chiefs side, so take on the modest points start with confidence.
The Way It’s Shaping
Chiefs by 19
Chiefs -12.5 ($1.90)
Chiefs by 16-20 ($5.50)