Preview: Reds v Chiefs
Friday, June 5, 2015 James Mortimer Getty Images
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Played: 18, 1996-2013 (DNP 2014)
Reds wins: 10
Chiefs wins: 8
Reds points: 462
Chiefs points: 451
Last played: Reds 31 Chiefs 23, 13.04.13 in Hamilton
Round 17 teams: http://bit.ly/1Joo5Jx
Form: Three wins from their last six is a bit more like it for the 2011 champions, who have recovered from a slow start to come home with some momentum.
Still, this is not the old Reds who at one point boasted a 12-1 record against New Zealand opposition, now the ledger has turned – the Queenslanders have been beaten seven times in their last eight matches against Kiwi squads.
It is a bit of a different story against the Chiefs, who have lost four straight against the Reds, including the remarkable record that saw Queensland conquer the Waikato based side in 2012 and 2013 when they lifted the title.
Still the late surge doesn’t change some hard facts, the Reds are not the dazzlers they used to be, they are ranked 14th overall in terms of points scored and tries conceded.
The Chiefs have their destiny in their own hands but they have lost steam of late, losing three of their last four matches although injuries haven’t helped on this front.
A strong start and typically imposing defence has been behind their solid season, but their form on the road leaves plenty to be desired.
Not only is there the bogey of not having won against the Reds for so long, but the Chiefs have lost four of their last five away – so if they are to avoid travelling initially in the finals, this match needs to be won.
Key players: The threat for the visitors is not only are key players featuring at home for the last time before heading to Europe, but the star players are beginning to grab moments by the scruff of the beck.
Will Genia, Quade Cooper and James O’Connor have looked more assured in recent weeks, Adam Thomson has been wrecking his own brand of chaos at the breakdown, while the speed in which Liam Gill and Jake Schatz get around the park is notable.
The visitors welcome back frontline All Blacks, and the impact of the likes of Messam and Retallick will be needed against a Reds pack that doesn’t look incredibly imposing on paper, but in the past they have managed to outlast New Zealand forward units.
However this Chiefs team, containing the fore mentioned Test regulars, Sam Cane and Hika Elliot, will fancy their chances to keep their finals hopes firmly within their own control.
Marty McKenzie and Andrew Horrell form the 10/12 axis, and there is plenty of pressure on the two young men to continue to step up in the absence of Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams.
Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai and Bryce Heem bring size and power to the equation – which will lead to an interesting matchup considering the overall smaller frames of the Reds backline.
Squad update: Reds centurions Will Genia and James Horwill will play their final home game for the state this weekend, after being named in the starting side to take on the Chiefs at Suncorp Stadium.
Head coach Richard Graham has named an unchanged starting team for Saturday’s match, while the reserves bench features the return of Saia Fainga’a from a rib injury and the potential debut of New Zealand-born Japanese Test player Hendrik Tui, who has recovered from a broken leg suffered while playing in Japan. Graham has named an extended nine-man bench, with one player to be omitted before kick off.
The Chiefs forward pack has some new personnel with Mitchell Graham and Siate Tokolahi starting in the front row.
Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam both return from injury to bolster the pack.
Halfback Augustine Pulu will play his 50th match in Chiefs colours. In the midfield Tim Nanai-Williams starts on the left wing with Andrew Horrell joining Charlie Ngatai in the midfield. Bryce Heem moves to the right wing and Tom Marshall returns at fullback.
The bench gets a make over with Pauliasi Manu, Jarrod Firth, Matt Symons, Maama Vaipulu, Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown all joining the reserves.
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