Queensland Reds vs
Sat 6th March
Ref: Tappe Henning
Halftime 6 to 7
Like Geeves I am a bit late (slack) on getting something down about this game so I will stick to mentioning some key things from that game rather than a blow by blow. (as usual we'll leave that to the professionals)
On the whole this was an entertaining game, but not a very accurate one. Both teams played with a lot of passion and really smashed each other on defense and probably as a result there were a lot of mistakes and turn overs at the breakdown.
Fortunately the majority of these went against the home side as Richie Mccaw stole the ball numerous times but the Crusaders had some problems of their own holding onto possession.
As with the previous Crusaders games so far this season Mccaw and Carter were the standouts. According to the Press statistics Mccaw made a mammoth 37 tackles in the game. This sounds pretty unreal and the FantasyRugby guys tally of 21 for Richie sounds more reasonable but still it's a power of work by the young fella.
Not far behind Carter was credited with 18 tackles of his own, so he was in the thick of it on defense too.
The Crusaders tight five also went very well and had the upperhand in the scrums and tight stuff.
The things that didn't work so well for the Crusaders were their kicking game. Even with the Maestro Mehrts back in no 10 we still seemed to do a lot of mis-directed and aimless kicking, both by Mehrts and Aaron Mauger.
With the quality of the back 3 for most of the teams in the Super 12 it's just not smart rugby. If you are going to kick it deep either kick it out or at least give your defenders a chance to put in a good chase and force the opposition to kick it out.
Not surprisingly Chris Latham had a feast of ball to run back at the Crusaders line and on one occasion he got the chance to do it twice in the space of a minute as he sliced through 90% of the Crusaders defense only to turn it over but 30 seconds later (having got back on defense) he got another kick down his throat and did it all over again.
Apart from Latham the other reds players that impressed me were Valentine (he's way better than Gregan now), the young winger Hynes and the blindside Henan.
The most talked about feature of this game (before and after) seems to be Andrew Mehrtens. Other than some poor tactical kicking I didn't think Mehrts had a bad game, just not a great one. He looked rusty, and I guess with the rep that he has we don't expect him to be rusty, we expect him to control the game like he has done so often in the past. But are so many fans all living in the past?
It surprised me that so many people (Crusaders fans generally but not exclusively) were crying "Bring back Mehrts" after the first two losses this season.
Didn't we go through all this last year?
The guy still has some serious game but I don't feel that the Merhts of 2004 is better than Mauger or Carter, and in many ways (pace, defense, ability to break the line) he is worse.
When things aren't going well with the incumbent 10 and 12 then it makes sense to give Mehrts a start to see if he can turn things around but I reckon we are probably better to use him more in a "key sub" role and give Carter the No 10 and let Mauger stick to his best position at 12.
At the very least just play two of those guys at any one time. As has been pointed out on the board recently by numerous people with A Mauger at center we are really small in the mid-field and have no strike power there at all. Sure Carter and Mauger can make breaks but it tends to be through side-steps etc rather than busting runs.
The best inside back combo still appears to be Carter, A Mauger and N Mauger to me, but given that the Mauger boys seem to be in a funk then I guess the alternatives would be;
bench both of them and slide Carter over to 12 and start Merhts at 10 and Casey LauLala at 13 or;
bench Mehrts and start Carter at 10, A Mauger at 12 and Laulala at 13.
This may all be academic if the fracture to his thumb that Mehrts received in Brisbane rules him out against the Chefs in two weeks time, in which case i hope we get to see Carter in 10.
Anyway, it's bloody good to be able to get off the down-trou for the season and with the current closeness of the points table we are only another win or two out of the playoff race.
Count out the Crusaders at your peril...