Sun 12 May 2019 | 07:21

Australia Conference: There for the taking

Australia Conference: There for the taking
Sun 12 May 2019 | 07:21
Australia Conference: There for the taking
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REACTION: The jostling for a guaranteed Super Rugby finals berth will go down to the wire after the Brumbies seized top spot in the Australian conference for the first time all season.

With five regular rounds remaining, the Brumbies nudged a point ahead of the Melbourne Rebels with a 33-0 shut-out of the Sunwolves in Canberra on Sunday.

But the Queensland Reds, six points shy of the Brumbies after a 24-30 loss to the Rebels, and NSW Waratahs, seven back after a 28-29 defeat to the Lions in Johannesburg, also remain very much in contention for an automatic play-off berth.

The Brumbies won’t collect any points from the bye next week and round out their home-and-away campaign with crucial derbies against the Waratahs and Reds.

Despite sitting fourth in the conference and in 13th spot overall on the ladder, the Waratahs – who have dropped three of their four games since losing Israel Folau to suspension – are certain to have a major say in the final wash-up.

Last year’s semi-finalists play each of the Brumbies, Rebels and Reds in season-defining encounters.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson, despite lamenting another big missed opportunity on Sunday, maintains the competition is still up for grabs.

The only team to beat the defending champion Crusaders this campaign, all seven of the Waratahs’ losses have been by eight points or less – and four have been by three or less.

“The margins for us this year have been very close,” Gibson said.

“We’re a team that shows a lot of fight, a lot of character, but we just haven’t able to close out those really close games.

“Obviously there’s a stand-out team in the Crusaders and perhaps the Hurricanes.

“The rest of us, on our day we can produce performances, and then we’re all over the place at times.

“But it’s where the competition’s at at the moment. I think anyone’s beatable on their day.”

As well as a crucial derby showdown with the Waratahs in Melbourne in three weeks, the Rebels, likely to be without concussed playmaker Quade Cooper against the Bulls on Friday, have a rough finish to the season against the Crusaders in Christchurch and a final-round hosting of the Chiefs.

The Reds host the Waratahs next Saturday in a must-win fixture for both sides and also play the Chiefs, Jaguares, Blues and Brumbies.

Source: AAP

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Australia Conference: There For The Taking | Rugby365