Nigel Yalden: Crusaders vs Hurricanes preview

Author
Nigel Yalden,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Friday, 28 June 2019, 1:34PM
Photo / Photosport
Photo / Photosport

The two remaining New Zealand franchises do battle tomorrow night in the second Super Rugby semi-finals. Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has gone through the two teams, man by man, position by position, looking to see who has the advantage when the Crusaders face the Hurricanes at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch:

FRONT ROW

1 Joe Moody vs 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen – CRUSADERS

Moody has been scrummaging powerfully this season and his around endeavour is just a touch higher than the always industrious JTA

2 Codie Taylor vs Dane Coles – HURRICANES

Coles has been heavily involved in recent weeks while Taylor, who will be better for the run last week, was well off the standard we know he can play in his return last weekend

3 Owen Franks vs 1 Toby Smith – CRUSADERS

A great battle between two roll-your-sleeves-up-and-do-your-job-prop forwards; Franks has been doing all aspects of his job to a high level when on the field and showed no signs of ring rust last week

Collectively – CRUSADERS

What the Crusaders front row has done individually and collectively earns the right to be favoured in this battle within the battle

SECOND ROW

4 Scott Barrett vs James Blackwell – CRUSADERS

Barrett’s wider skill set get him the nod here but there is no doubt that Blackwell will provide tireless work for his side from first whistle to last and would be a contender for Most Improved Player of the Year if SANZAAR ever gets there act together and hands out end of season awards like other major sporting competitions do … rant over.

5 Sam Whitelock vs Isaia Walker-Leawere – CRUSADERS

I really like how Walker-Leaware has developed throughout 2019 but Sam Whitelock is world class and is one of the best in the world at playing this position

Collectively – CRUSADERS

As they have been for the previous two seasons, Whitelock and Barrett are the best second row combination in Super Rugby

LOOSE FORWARDS

6 Whetukamokamo Douglas vs Reed Prinsep – EVEN

These two blokes are cut from the same cloth - honest, hardworking, skilled, tough, team first, underrated by most except by the ones that matter the most – their team-mates and coaches

7 Matt Todd vs Ardie Savea – HURRICANES

Todd is playing really, really good rugby at the moment and yet he’s not even in the same galaxy in comparison to Savea. Todd has shined in recent meetings though so while its advantage Savea, in my mind it’s not as bigger margin as it will be to most

8 Kieran Read vs Gareth Evans – CRUSADERS

The All Blacks skipper has been churning out industrious eighty minute efforts on a weekly basis while Evans athleticism and breakdown peskiness will be a factor if they blokes in front get some measure of parity

Collectively – EVEN

This shapes as a fascinating contest between two loose forward trios that bring so much to the contest each week – KEY FORWARD BATTLE OF THE GAME

FORWARD PACK

Crusaders vs Hurricanes – CRUSADERS

Much is made of the Crusaders forward pack and that is done for a very good reason; cthey are a well drilled unit that take a backseat to no one in Super Rugby

INSIDE BACKS

9 Bryn Hall vs TJ Perenara – EVEN

The similarities in the way these two halfbacks are going about their jobs at the moment makes it impossible for me to separate them – FUN MATCH UP OF THE GAME

NB. Congratulations to TJ Perenara on his impending milestone of becoming the most capped Hurricane of all time - the most competitive man on the rugby field; one of the most woke people off it

10 Richie Mo’unga vs Beauden Barrett – CRUSADERS

The two best first fives in the country with daylight third and nightime a distance fourth. On current form Mo’unga has been doing more on attack in terms of overt creation of try scoring movements while Barrett’s kicking game – off the tee and out of hand – and defensive is better at the moment.

Collectively – EVEN

Even with an edge in the first five stakes, the Perenara/Barrett collective work so well together and that factor evens things up for me, despite their struggles against the Crusaders in recent outings

MIDFIELD BACKS

12 Ryan Crotty vs Ngani Laumape – CRUSADERS

“Rock Solid” Ryan has been just that again this season while Laumape, who started off hot, has cooled a bit as the season has worn on, though that seemed to coincide with the injury enforced absence of Matt Proctor

13 Jack Goodhue vs Peter Umaga-Jensen – CRUSADERS

Maturity beyond his years versus a player still trying to find his feet at this level

Collectively - CRUSADERS

The Crotty/Goodhue combination is well established despite the relative brevity of their partnership and both are excellent decision makers with and without the ball

BACK THREE

11 George Bridge vs 14 Salesi Rayasi – CRUSADERS

Bridge can expect to have a lot of play come his way early as the Crusaders look to put pressure on a young player in a big game whose defence was questionable at best in the quarter-finals last weekend

14 Sevu Reece vs 11 Ben Lam – EVEN

Both have the ability to deliver “WOW” moments on attack but also have questions marks under the high ball and defensively

15 David Havili vs Jordie Barret – CRUSADERS

Havili’s play has been consistently of a high standard throughout the season to be the stand out New Zealand fullback in Super Rugby this year while Barrett has made big strides in terms of his defensive positioning and organisation this year

Collectively – CRUSADERS

The inclusion of the inexperience Rayasi gives a clear edge to the Crusaders more established back three combination

BACKLINE

Crusaders vs Hurricanes – CRUSADERS

More cohesion and consistency, both in selection and play, favours the home side in this area.

RESERVES

16. Andrew Makalio vs Asafo Aumua – CRUSADERS

While we all marvel at Aumua’s ability with ball in hand, Makalio provides far more solidity and dependability at set piece whilst being no slouch himself around the traps

17. George Bower vs Xavier Numia – EVEN

Much of a muchness in terms of experience, skill and endeavour

18. Michael Alaalatoa vs Ben May – CRUSADERS

Ala'alatoa the more consistent scrummager of the two; May vastly more experience while both provide plenty around the field

19. Luke Romano vs. Kane Le’aupepe – EVEN

Two big, tough, direct second row forwards; you could argue that Le’aupepe is a young version of Romano and that is a compliment to both men

20. Jordan Taufua vs Vaea Fifita – EVEN

OH MY GOODNESS!!! Imagine if this two weapons trot onto the field at the same time in the second half … where’s my popcorn?!

21. Mitchell Drummond vs Richard Judd – CRUSADERS

Drummond will most likely see some game time while Judd only plays if Perenara gets injured or the score blows out massively either way

22. Mitchell Hunt vs James Marshall – HURRICANES

Even though Hunt has produced significant moments to earn the nickname “Clutch”, James Marshall’s experience, skill and rugby nous make himself more impactful

23. Braydon Ennor vs Jonah Lowe – CRUSADERS

Ennor’s play has him in All Blacks discussion while Lowe is another Hurricanes reserves whose game time, if any, will be based on injury or score line.

Collectively – CRUSADERS

** Coverage of the Crusaders vs Hurricanes begins at 7.05pm on Radio Sport & iHeartRadio with commentary from Brian Ashby, Corey Flynn, Tracey Nelson and Lesley Murdoch at 7.35pm **

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