The head-to-head bracket format of the Last Cowboy Standing gives us plenty of exciting matches to watch in both Rounds 1 and 2. This format favours riders who ride a high percentage of their bulls, but the luck of the draw can still have some effect on that.
Let’s break down the Round 1 matchups:
Caiden Sandilands (AUS) vs. Flávio Vinícius da Silva (BRA):
I will side with the young gun here. Sandilands has drawn Ryans Gangster who has been covered twice from six PBR outs. Da Silva’s draw, Firecracker has also allowed two qualified rides from six trips. Both bulls have a similar action and will be around to the right, but I think Ryan’s Gangster looks the better draw.
Gustavo Pedrero (MEX) vs. Merv Church (NZL):
This matchup looks a tough one to predict, but I will take the Brazilian. Pedrero will face Superstition while Church will go up against Mighty Whitey. We have not seen the best of Superstition in his last few PBR outs, but despite these inconsistent performances, he remains unridden. Mighty Whitey has been ridden once for 83 points by Brady Fielder in Rockhampton. Last week at PBR Origin turned back to the left and bucked off Will Purcell.
Troy Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Lachlan Slade (AUS):
Wilkinson has had a tough time of it, drawing tough bulls that turn back away from his hand, and he gets another one here. Django has had three scores recorded in nine outs, and I think Wilkinson can get a score but will it be enough? If the bull brings his best, it will. Slade has struggled to get consistent scores on the board so far this season, but Super Natural will turn back into his hand and has excellent timing. Mitchel Paton was 86 points on his bull last weekend in Origin. We could see a similar score here, and I’ll take Slade to progress.
Lachlan Richardson (AUS) vs. Josh Cavanagh (AUS):
Richardson takes on Mixed Culture while Cavanagh will go up against Gangatino. Last weekend was the first time I have seen Mixed Culture, who is 5-for-6 in PBR competition. He hipped himself leaving the chutes at PBR Origin and turned back to the left. Richardson will be his toughest opponent. Gangatino produces a consistent trip and gives riders an excellent chance to make the whistle. He fakes left, goes right and kicks the lights out. Richardson has bucked off his last four bulls, but he should rebound here.
Fraser Babbington (NZL) vs. Aaron Kleier (AUS):
The 2015 and 2018 PBR Australian National Champions go head to head here against the two toughest bulls in the Round 1 pen. Babbington will face Tuff Territory for the second time while Kleier will have his fourth shot at Juiced Wiggles. Tuff Territory is unridden in over 20 outs and defeated Babbington in three seconds at the 2018 Grand Finals. Kleier has made it past the five seconds mark in two of his outs aboard Juiced Wiggles. I think Kleier progresses on time.
Rubens Barbosa (BRA) vs. Oscar Leake (AUS):
We welcome back Rubens Barbosa to our shores, and he has drawn Cherokee Drum who has been ridden just once from thirteen trips. He is a bull who can buck in either direction but generally has a look to the left before turning back to the right. Leake will take on Personal Space who has won both of his trips in PBR competition. In Sydney, this bull spun to the left which might not suit Leake. I’ll take the World No. 23.
Daniel Rogan (AUS) vs. Brady Fielder (AUS).
Rogan has drawn High Risk while Fielder will go up against Pistol Whip. High Risk is 1-and-1 in the PBR after Fielder rode him for 85 points last weekend at the PBR Origin. He turned back to the left after covering some ground, and I think he will get along with the left-handed Rogan just fine. Pistol Whip is a veteran bull who produces a consistent trip around to the left. The last cowboy to make the bell on this bull was Kurt Shephard who put up 84.75 points at the 2018 Grand Finals. Fielder has ridden seven of his previous ten bulls and will be hard to hold out here.
Mitchel Paton (AUS) vs. Joshua Jones (AUS):
Paton rode very well last weekend in Sydney to finish atop the Cowboy of Origin leaderboard, and he will face the relatively unknown Bud Buster here. Budd Williamson took this bull to 2.65 seconds in Rockhampton at his only PBR performance to date. Jones has drawn Broken Halo who has been a tough bull to get by. His average buck off time this season was just 2.43 seconds until Jay Borghero made it past the seven seconds mark last weekend. This matchup could go either way, but I’ll stick with Paton.
Ethan Watts (AUS) vs. Kurt Shephard (AUS):
Watts gets a rematch with Uncle Si after the two met in Blackall last season with the bull winning the matchup in 4.31 seconds. He likes to throw his head around and turns back to the left more often than not. Last time we saw Uncle Si, he was ridden for 85.50 points by Troy Cross in Yass.
Shephard has drawn Posting Bail, and I have not seen any vision of this bull. Aaron Kleier was 86.50 points in Marrabel earlier this season, but all other cowboys come down before the mid-point of the ride. Toss of the coin, but after his third-place finish in Sydney, I’ll side with Shephard.
Francisco Morales (MEX) vs. Donovan Rutherfurd (AUS):
A true veteran versus rookie battle. Morales faces Feel The Fire who holds a 9-for-11 record over the cowboys in PBR competition. His regular trip is to fake to the right and hit the gas around to the left. Aaron Kleier is the only rider to make the whistle on this bull, twice for 83.5 and 83 points. Rutherfurd, on the other hand, faces Silent Rage who has been covered six times since the 2017 PBR Australia Finals with scores averaging 84.25 points. He turns back to the left, and I think that will give the young-gun the advantage.
Lane Mellers (AUS) vs. Nathan Burtenshaw (AUS):
This should be a great matchup. Mellers on Shots and Burtenshaw on The Donald. It has been a while since we have seen Shots ridden while The Donald has been covered twice in his last four. I can see both riders making the whistle here. Shots can put in a fake to the left and spin to the right, or he can turn back to the left. The Donald likes to mix it up but generally fakes to the right and has plenty of roll in his action. Mellers for me, simply because there are more points available on Shots.
*Note: Nathan Burtenshaw has been replaced in the draw by Budd Williamson.
Lawson Nobbs (AUS) vs. Justin Robards (AUS):
Nobbs will go up against Wild Paint who has been covered twice in five PBR outs. This bull’s standard trip is to fake right and then turn back to the left. These two should match up fine, and I think we will see a score. Robards will climb aboard the unridden Shotgun. I have seen this bull in just one of his three PBR outs, and that was in Tamworth where he followed the gate around to the right and continued the spin in the same direction. Robards looks well placed also to record a qualified ride. Leaning Nobbs’ way.
Jay Borghero (AUS) vs. Cliff Richardson (AUS):
Pole Dancer will be the opponent for Borghero, and this bull has just the one out in PBR, and there is no vision of that out. It was in Cunnamulla where he bucked off Harry Bridges in 5.69 seconds. Richardson faces Gangster Jack who has been covered once in his PBR career. That was in this arena last year where Mitchel Paton scored 82.5 points to progress out of the first round. He can be a rough ride with lots of rolling. Taking Richardson on trust.
Robinson Guedes (BRA) vs. Sam Woodall (AUS):
Guedes goes up against Big Buck Hunter who has been covered in four of his six PBR performances with scores in the low to mid 80 point range. Last time out in Tamworth he won his battle with Sam Woodall, putting up a career-high 44 point bull score. Woodall will face Russian Roulette who gave up three qualified rides before bucking of his next three cowboys. He can skip about on his way to his spot where he turns back to the right. I will side with the experience of Guedes.
Check back tomorrow as we take a look at some of the possible Round 2 matchups and look at the Championship Round bullpen.