How the Bookies See it
- Winner: Crusaders 8/13, Lions 11/8, Draw 22/1 – Paddy Power
- Leading After 60 Minutes: Crusaders 8/11, Lions 10/9, Draw 18/1 – 32Red
- Half Time: Crusaders 11/13, Lions 15/13, 23/2 – 888Sport
The British and Irish Lions come into their third warm-up game with one victory and one defeat from their two matches so far. A hard-fought 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in the tour opener was followed by the sub-standard display against the Blues, the first of five Super Rugby teams Warren Gatland’s men will face on this tour. Supposedly the weakest of the five sides, the loss to Tana Umaga’s squad should act as a wake-up call to the men in red with only four games to go until the vital, must-win first Test at Eden Park, Auckland.
The Crusaders are unbeaten this season, with 14 straight victories in Super Rugby. Their most recent outing was a 25-22 triumph over the Highlanders, and they top the New Zealand conference with 63 points ahead of the Blues, Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes. With a points difference of +250 and seven bonus points so far, they represent all that’s good about New Zealand rugby with their style of play and are certainly in a rich vein of form coming into this game.
For the Lions, Sean O’Brien, Conor Murray, Jonathan Davies and George North all make their first appearances of the tour, in what looks a very strong team on paper. Nine of the XV featured on the historic 2013 tour of Australia, and that previous Lions experience could prove invaluable against a Crusaders team that has swept all before them so far this season. In what could be another tight game, the Lions are 9/1 with William Hill to come through by 1-5 points. Captained by Alun-Wyn Jones, the Welshman partners George Kruis in the second-row. Behind the scrum, Murray and Owen Farrell form an eye-catching half-back combination, with Ben Te’o and Davies – 12/1 with Sky Bet to be the first Lions try scorer - named as the centre partnership.
Discipline was an issue at times for the Lions against the Blues, and they’ll be looking to address that area of concern over the course of this 80 minutes. Whilst they’ve struggled for rhythm and creative spark in the backline, their set-piece and forward play has generally been encouraging so far on this tour and a forward is 7/4 with BetVictor to score the first try at the AMI Stadium. If the visitors can build a lead in the first forty, a half-time lead of 1-7 points could prove invaluable – offered at a tempting 5/2 with Boylesports.
The Crusaders XV boasts eight All Blacks, six in the pack, and this team is loaded with Test regulars and experienced men. The likes of Owen Franks, Luke Romano and captain Sam Whitelock will relish the prospect of getting stuck into the Lions before the Test series begins. Full-back Israel Dagg is one to look out for in the backline with his attacking threat and gainline vision, 16-1 to be the game’s first try scorer. Priced at 11/8 for Crusaders/Crusaders Half Time/Full Time betting odds, the hosts could sense another famous victory. Although it would be unthinkable from a Lions perspective to lose two games in a row so early in the tour, it certainly isn’t out the question for the hosts given the amount of quality in their ranks. Add into the equation their 14-match unbeaten run, and the irresistible Crusaders could very well create history in Christchurch this weekend.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: Crusaders to win by 6-10 points – 11/2 – William Hill