Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Contrasting routes to showdown

The Crusaders score most of their tries from first phase ball. Photo / Getty Images
The Crusaders score most of their tries from first phase ball. Photo / Getty Images

The Chiefs are the most lethal try-scoring side in the Super 15 and near the best with their defensive line, while the Crusaders are average in both categories.

That disparity appears in the latest collection of statistics as the sides work their way through vastly different schedules leading into Saturday's showdown in Hamilton.

The Crusaders will be doing their best to reset their body clocks and not much more after returning this week from South Africa. They will have a light workout tomorrow before packing their bags again for another plane ride.

They gathered some substance and valuable competition points in South Africa, while the Chiefs had an unconvincing win against the Rebels after returning from Africa. The home side has had another week to sort themselves and practise their strategies for this duel. It is a crucial stage of the competition.

The Chiefs have a six-point gap on the Crusaders and a repeat victory in this local derby may be enough to get them back into their stride with a stronger sniff of qualifying for the playoffs.

Official information shows the Chiefs are most lethal from kick returns and lineouts when they get that part of their game sorted. They are rated the 14th most effective at lineouts, just ahead of the Stormers, but they score a high number of points from that set play.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders are most dangerous from turnovers in the series where they have picked up 18 tries and yielded 17.

They are slow to Interesting stats in showdown start games, concede the most points in the third quarter but are at their most potent in the final 20 minutes of matches.

The Chiefs are the least effective in the second quarter of games and mirror their Crusader rivals by conceding most points in the third quarter and being at their most dangerous in the last quarter of games.

One area both teams will highlight will be the first phase possession from scrums and lineouts where they both concede tries at a higher rate than other areas of the game.

The Crusaders score most of their tries from first phase ball but the Chiefs are more effective after testing the opposition for about 4-6 phases.

Goalkicking favours the Chiefs. They used Aaron Cruden for most of the kicking until his injury while Gareth Anscombe is even more deadly and from slightly longer range creating a 74 per cent success rate for the Chiefs. Tom Taylor, Colin Slade and Israel Dagg have not been as sharp for the Crusaders with a combined 65 per cent success rate.

There will be more factors such as coaching experience where the Chiefs group shade their rivals, and injuries where the Chiefs are waiting for a medical decision on prime lock Brodie Retallick who was concussed again last game.

Both sides will have changed lineups from their initial meeting when the Chiefs won 18-10 in Christchurch while referee Garratt Williamson's control will be another factor in this pivotal match in the NZ conference.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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