Blues vs Highlanders
It’s SR Trans-Tasman finals time in the inaugural year of this competition. There is no surprise in seeing two NZ teams in the final as they completely dominated the Australian teams. In the 25 matches played there were just two wins for the Aus. sides which show the gulf in class between the countries. The two most consistent teams have made the finals and its quite strange not seeing the Crusaders which is also a welcome change. The Blues have finally started fulfilling the promise they have while the Highlanders have played the best as a team. Coming into this final leadership is obviously going to be a key and this is where the Highlanders have the distinct edge. In co-captains Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon they have the best rugby brains in the competition. The Blues have lacked leadership but have been boosted by the return of club captain Patrick Tuipulotu in recent weeks. He has come back with a bang and his physicality has hurt opponents. The Blues always use their powerful forwards to dominate the opposition but they will meet their match in this encounter as the Highlanders also boast a powerful pack. The Highlanders have been the surprise package as they only have one All Black in Smith but they continue to punch above their weight. They run like a well-oiled machine with the irrepressible Aaron Smith pulling the strings and he is surely in contention for player of the tournament. I don’t think the Blues halfbacks have been put under too much pressure and this is the area the Highlanders must look to target.
TIP: The Blues are in a final for the first time since 2003 and are in the great position of playing at home. I know this is a major advantage but it also comes with a great deal of pressure and expectation. The Highlanders have shown great attacking skill sets and have dangerous runners like Jona Nareki in their ranks. Nareki’s duel with Bryce Heem will be one of the highlights as they are contrasting players with Heem relying on his power while Nareki is all pace and guile. All finals are decided by the forwards and this match will be no different with the forward packs so evenly matched we can be assured that this match will be a super close encounter. The bookies have the Blues as favourites but I am going to be brave and tip the Highlanders to cause a major upset and will this close match. The best odds on the Highlanders win are as follows: Worldsportsbetting 3.30, Playabets 3.50 and Sunbet 3.05
HEAD TO HEAD STATS
Blues vs Highlanders
- The last five matches between these sides have seen the Blues lead by 3 wins to two.
- The Blues have won their last three home matches against the Highlanders.
- The last time the Blues lost at home to the Highlanders was in 2018.
Latest results for both teams
The Blues won their last match against the Force 31-21 while the Highlanders won against the Brumbies 33-12.
This match could come down to the defence of the Blues against the attack of the Highlanders. The Highlanders have looked smooth and composed in attack and players like Nareki and Josh Ioane are always dangerous. The Blues on the other hand have defended stoutly in games and pounced on turnover ball. They do not have the attacking instincts like the Highlanders and Smith is always looking at taking a quick free kick or penalty to catch the opposition on the back foot. The creativity the Highlanders have shown from lineouts has been fantastic while the Blues seem to just stick to the driving maul looking to bull doze their way over the line. This tactic make have worked on the Aus. teams but the Highlanders will not be brushed aside. The leadership and attacking ability of the Highlanders lends me to predict a narrow away win by two points
- Probable Starting XVs
15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman.
15 Josh Ioane, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Hugh Renton, 5 Pari Pari Parkinson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ethan de Groot.
Odds for this bet
The best odds on the Highlanders upset victory are as follows:
Odds comparison on the Highlanders handicap:
The complete odds on the Highlanders handicap:
Worldsportsbetting (+6.5) 1.90
Sunbet (+7.5) 1.85
Playabets (+6.5) 1.90
Predictions and Odds in details
Both these teams rely heavily on set piece dominance but they will struggle to gain an advantage in this facet of the game as they are very evenly matched in this area. The Highlanders certainly are the more dangerous team on attack and the Blues will need to keep the likes of Nareki and Ioane quiet. The best way to do this is to slow the ruck ball down but Smith may be too good for that. There is also a major milestone for Ash Dixon as he is playing in his 100th match. This will be a perfect opportunity for his team to give him the best gift ever. The Blues will want their attacking weapons like Rieko Ioane and Bryce Heem to fire but they will need to lay a platform for them to attack from and I don’t believe they will get that against the Highlanders. There is great money on the Highlanders upset win but the banker bet is the Highlanders on the generous handicap odds. The best odds on the Highlanders handicap are as follows; Worldsportsbetting (+6.5) 1.90, Sunbet (+7.5) 1.85 and Playabets (+6.5) 1.90
Sports crazy fan that follows all major sport but the game with the oval ball is my real passion. Was an age level rugby coach and a huge supporter of the Springboks and diehard Liverpool man. I’m an experienced punter and sports writer whose predictions/tips are sure to stir up the emotions. I love the occasional wager on the underdog.