Now that I’ve come down from the high of week one to a statistically bang on average spread picker, I did think about doing a bit more actual analysis… except WOW, Western Force, with the hooter gone and their own scrum feed, all they had to do was kick it out and level me up to genius. Thankfully, fantasy rugby went a little bit better for me than my picks last week (shout outs to McMahon, Fekitoa, and evil grin monkey Damian McKenzie. On to week 4…
As always, the home team is in CAPS and my pick is in bold; please direct any abuse to @el_nonpareil on the Twitter or nero080215 on Reddit.
Western Force +17.5 vs HURRICANES
Don’t get me wrong, the Force won’t win this and it makes me sick to pick them after their pathetic showing last week but without NMS and with a still too fat Savea combined with Perenara’s recent inaccurate service, this spread is just too big even when you consider that the Force look like they might just turn into a hot mess before long. Hey, maybe Jason Woodward might even get onto the park and not **** it up completely this time. Dane Coles is back in a welcome boost for the Canes but they are without Brad Shields, and with all their injury problems, look for the Canes to win but fail to cover.
Highlanders +2.5 vs WARATAHS
A good, rested team up against a side travelling across the Tasman without its best starting wings? Ordinarily you might sign up for the Tahs but then you’d be forgetting that the Highlanders possess the Folau killing Fekitoa and that the Highlanders might just be the T-1000 given form as a rugby team. They don’t care how much of the ball they have, they just know they’re going to hurt you with it. As for the Tahs, they make the most tackles and give away the most penalties so far this season so you’ve got to take the points again here.
BULLS +1.5 vs Sharks
The Sharks travel round to the Bulls after the high of beating the Stormers last time round but with Pollard and Lambie missing, does anyone really care? I don’t. Pick the home team with the points and keep on moving.
Rebels -5.5 vs SUNWOLVES
The Rebels were awful last week; how a team comes within a score of you after you’ve had gainline success over 80% is just a mystery to me but the Sunwolves might be on a downer after the highs and lows of last week’s outing against the Cheetahs. Look for the Sunwolves fast style of play to play into the Rebels hands and for this to be a high scoring game with the Rebels taking it by a couple of scores.
Kings +32.5 vs CRUSADERS
Yeah, that’s not a typo. I know they’re at home but the Crusaders are resting EVERYONE and using this as a hit out for their players returning from injury or the ones who are in need of some game time. Besides, 32.5 is an OCEAN of points. The Crusaders will win, get a bonus point and look miserly doing it but they might find it tough to have to cover the spread against the proud, but awful visitors.
PSA: I’m flipping my Crusaders pick. It has been bugging me pretty much all day (https://twitter.com/el_nonpareil/status/710886365542682624)
*We now interrupt your scheduled betting meltdown to bring you news from across the equator*
Far, far away in the land that attacking rugby long forgot, a group of little red riding hood lookalikes spent the best part of an hour getting massacred before a slip up gave them a chance to escape with some of their dignity intact. Too much dignity in fact. The best thing that could have happened to Wales on Saturday would have been England stamping on St David’s throat on the way to a 40-0 win. Why? Because their bantz master has taken them as far as he can and now, he’s only managing to take them backwards.
The last two times that Wales have played against England, they’ve been handily beaten for the first hour before throwing caution to the wind out of necessity with a) a deficit and a huge injury pile up in a knockout game and b) with a humiliating hiding on the cards. You know what it says about your attacking structures when your players look more dangerous without them? That your attacking structures are s**t. Too often, Gatland’s game plan seems to be stuck in 2013. It’s understandable in a perverse way – his signature win came in 2013 with the old scrum laws (bet you’ve forgotten exactly how much scrums were pivotal to the “win the hit” and kick for touch 50 metres away game plans back then) and he’s clutching at straws to try and recreate it.
I lost count of the amount of times I saw a tight forward standing flat on his heels, one out from the first receiver, catch a pass, then look up to see a defender rushing up towards him before passing out to a fellow tighty outside him. With how often it happened, it must have been a part of what can only be described as a pathetic excuse for a strategy. It doesn’t say much for the players that they couldn’t understand the dynamics of catching a pass on the run – that can’t be put on good old Wazza – but why shift on a ball when you know that the next defender on is already rushing onto your teammate and will make the tackle even further behind the gainline? Congratulations idiot, the player who was going to tackle you can just continue his run past you and hit the ruck at speed while you have to run back around the ruck and try to clean him out with no momentum at all. On top of that, you’ve just moved the ruck ever so much further away from the last one, making your forwards arrive half a second later. All your ball quality and tempo has evaporated and Gareth Davies is going to kick the ball away. Except wait, where is Gareth Davies?! Oh that’s right, he’s still getting to the breakdown because he took the ball into contact to make the last ruck. So some poor forward is going to try to carry the ball again – and just get stopped behind the gainline, again. Now Davies gets there and passes it back for Biggar to kick. Best case scenario: lose 15m of territory then kick it out for an opposition lineout.
The best thing that could have happened to Wales after the World Cup is if the RFU had gone all out for Gatland and if their Welsh counterparts had given in. Wales need a fresh game plan with new impetus and a willingness to bring continuity to their play – and maybe even play to the players strengths every once in a while.
Other notes from the game:
- The Marler elbow/gypsy comment non citing is a joke. He should run with it and see exactly what he has to do to catch a ban.
- So where is this world class full back that people were saying Mike Brown was?
- At any given moment, Jamie Roberts was the fourth best centre on the pitch. Barely.
- Jamie Roberts is pretty much Diet Burgess at this point.
- Itoje is a phenomenal talent but come on, stop kissing his *** long enough to say his hands are on the floor at the breakdown before you laud his turnovers please comms?
- Farrell keeps kicking the ball away when he has numbers outside him. In other news, Earth continues to orbit the Sun.
- England handled Wales like I handle cake.
- “Can Cuthbert fini-no, he can’t.” HAHAHAHAHA.
- How much do you think Owen Farrell loved that Biggar try? More than he loves his dad? Definitely more than he loves his dad.
**Anyway, back to what you came for.**
Blues -5.5 vs REDS
Don’t be fooled by the Reds finishing close to the Rebels last week: the Rebels crossed the gainline at will but just Rebels-ed it up over and over again. The Blues are improving, believe it or not, and with the territory and possession they’re likely to have, it’s going to be a painful game for the non-tackling, non-defending Reds. And if you didn’t see him last week, watch this for Charlie Faumuina alone. Potentially one of the most significant player in this World Cup cycle, the do-everything front rower played the whole game last week and was probably the Blues best player in EVERY FACET OF THE GAME. No prop in the world has a skill set as diverse: strong at the set piece but a great mover with ball in hand to go with handy distribution and a menace at the breakdown. Once you notice it, you won’t miss it. And he definitely has it all.
LIONS -10.5 vs Cheetahs
The Lions are back in South Africa and will take a lot from their travels despite the defeat to the Highlanders last week. The Cheetahs meanwhile, struggled against one of the worst teams in the competition. They’re willing to play an open, attacking game but this will play right into the home teams’ hands and someone like Jaco Kriel might have a monster of a day.
STORMERS +1.0 vs Brumbies
Last week, I committed to picking against the Brumbies again and again until they finally fail to cover. It almost worked out but I didn’t take into account the Western Force’s capacity for collapse. The Stormers have a platoon of tight forwards that won’t take a backward step though – and if you’re giving up points away to the Stormers, I’m thinking long and hard about picking you anyway. TOPPLE THE BRUMBIES!
JAGUARES -3.5 vs Chiefs
Speaking of superlative groups of tight forwards, the Jaguares don’t have a bad one either. In comparison, the Chiefs are looking to adjust and find their best pairing after losing rising star Nepo Laulala before the season started. If the Jaguares play a tight game, they should win and will probably cover the spread based on dominance up front but if they play a looser game – the kind they pulled out against the Cheetahs for example – the Chiefs will be licking their lips at an opportunity to come away with an unlikely win. Have some sense Jaguares; don’t do it. Don’t play an expansive game against probably the second-most dangerous counter-attacking team in the tournament. There’s a strong argument for the Chiefs to cover but the spread doesn’t take into account the sheer amount of travelling the Chiefs have done in the past 10 days and that might tell in the last embers of the match
2016 Record: 12-12 (50.00%); Last Week: 3-4