Super Rugby tipping panel – the final: Quatre deux

Oui. Just the deux, then. And probably the ‘deux’ teams favored to meet in the final all the way back when.

But holy moly, what a ride to get there. What the Chiefs wouldn’t have given for a few passes going to hand. What the Brumbies wouldn’t have given for even just a couple more minutes on the clock. But the Blues and Crusaders are left standing and it will be a brilliant final.

I don’t know about you guys, but after a weekend of at times near-horizontal rain during both semis, I really hope Saturday night in Auckland serves up a dry track and a proper contest where the ball itself decides the contest rather than the conditions dictating the way the game is played.

But spare a thought for Mrs Barrett.

She’s spent the past fortnight consoling what’s-his-name after being knocked out of contention by an Australian team (gasp! The horror!), and now a new favorite son will emerge on Saturday night – because, let’s be honest, mums love a winner as much as the rest of us. Good luck, losing Barrett.

A decent set of results last weekend, and Harry even got Richie Mo’unga’s penalty goal right as the first scoring play in the first semi. But he also picked the Chiefs, so you know, context.

Let’s see what we come up with this week – how far into the game will we see a first score?

Last week: Geoff, Digger and The Crowd 2, Brett and Harry 1

Overall: Geoff and The Crowd 70, Digger 68, Brett and Harry 64

Geoff

Last week’s semi-final in Auckland brought back memories of Paul Newman’s 1967 starring role as Cool Hand Luke, There was Luke Reimer coolly leaning over and placing his hands on the ball, while Luke Romano coolly kept it in his hands, leaving fans and coaches in Canberra anything but cool about the outcome.

Who will it be that places their cool hands on the Super Rugby Pacific trophy? A Blues side on an upswing, that has been dominant throughout the year, or a Crusaders side not as richly endowed as versions of the past, but still with a cool, break-dancing, surfer dude coach and a habit of knowing how to win finals?

Both sides possess superior strike power. The Crusaders tend to play more rugby in the red zone, more side to side, probing for weaknesses as opposed to the Blues method of scything in from distance. Both know the value of keeping multiple players in support.

Perhaps it will come down to who has the coolest Barrett brother? As far as nicknames go, ‘Scooter’ leans to the uncool side. Beaudy is way cooler.

Blues to win, by eight, with Mark Talea crossing for a try in the seventh minute.

Sure thing: Jordie Barrett will ring both of his brothers before the match to wish them well, and tell each of them that secretly, he wants them to win. When really, he doesn’t give a rat’s who wins.

Beauden Barrett (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Digger

Well, it’s the final plenty picked and a number wanted – it should be a belter.

A COVID-plagued season meant we only had the benefit of watching these two sides square off the once, a rare win for the Blues in Christchurch after a mammoth defensive effort a few months ago. That last 20 minutes showed the sheer character of this Blues edition and that scramble was a feature against the Brumbies, earning their home final.

This bothers me, as it is difficult to replicate such defensive efforts week after week.

The Crusaders this season have certainly not been the well-oiled machine we have come to expect. But, of course, knowing we have not seen them at their best concerns me that maybe we will see their best on Saturday – it’s not like they don’t know how to get it done.

For all of the Blues’ fantastic play this season, they still manage to put themselves under pressure with low percentage and lethargic play. The Crusaders tend to play the big moments with more control and composure so I think, yes, we will get another breakdown lesson from Razor.

Crusaders by eight, but with a Stephen Perofeta penalty in the seventh minute to kick things off.

Sure thing: the Blues will prove to be their own worst enemy.

Brett

Right, so I’m picking the Blues to win, but the ‘why’ is not your conventional between-the-goalposts reasoning.

I’m picking the Blues because I had it in the podcast rundown this week to sort out with Harry that we might as well pick opposite to each other, given we’ve gone from penthouse to equal outhouse in a month.

But we had an issue with Zoom during the recording and were quickly running out of Zoom minutes when I began wrapping it all up. So I had to dump it. But then I read Harry’s email, and no spoilers here, but I’m picking the Blues.

And it’s all down to home-ground advantage. It’s always come down to home-ground advantage. Yeah, yeah, expect those couple of times it hasn’t, and yes, I know who was responsible for that.

What seems to have fallen out of the narrative around their semi-final win was the Blues enjoyed a much-improved set-piece performance, and that’s going to be a big factor again. Their scrum looks strong, while their lineout and maul has been swinging all year. They score so many tries off first or second phase.

Can they defend as well as the Crusaders? Well, as long as they’re attacking slightly better, it won’t really matter. But what they do have is two very good general-play kickers who put them in the right areas more often than not. Oh, and recent experience of getting out of tight spots.

They only need to win by one, but it’s Blues by five for me. But the Southerners will get us going, Cody Taylor piloting a seventh-minute lineout drive into the right corner.

Sure thing: I’m not even going to.

Harry

I like wooden spoons. I like wood.

The batter or the sauce or the dough works better with wood.

I will treasure my first wooden spoon and dedicate it to the pod.

But just to go out in a blaze of glory, and against my heart, I’ll tip the Wicked Witch of the South to defeat Dorothy of Auckland with the same magic with which they cast a spell over the hapless Chiefs, who forgot rugby football is footy and if you spend ten minutes in your opponent’s 22, you should be collecting five 3s or so. The Blues have a bit of that pride too; hating threes and loving fives.

So, I’ll say, the Crusaders will score first, in the seventh minute, courtesy of a 26-metre, straight-in-front Richie Mo’unga penalty against Tom Robinson for excessive exuberance in a ruck.

That margin, three points, will be the Crusaders’ winning margin.

Sure thing: the same arguments made by the Brumbies coach and fans (but not honest Laurie Fisher) will be asserted by the Blues supporters. Things will be missed. Calls will go this way and that. But Crusaders win titles.

Final Harry Geoff Digger Brett The Crowd
Overall 64 70 68 64 70
Last week 1 2 2 1 2
BLU v CRU Crusaders Blues Crusaders Blues
winning margin 3 points 8 points 8 points 5 points Announced
First scoring play R.Mo’unga PG M.Talea TRY S.Perofeta PG C.Taylor TRY Friday afternoon
Time of first score 7th minute 7th minute 7th minute 7th minute

Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon.

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