Super Rugby AU: Road to the finals
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Brumbies have all but locked in a home Super Rugby AU final.
However, the NSW Waratahs’ season is now on the line in a must-win match against Melbourne.
The Brumbies ran in four unanswered tries in the second half in Canberra on Saturday to smash the Tahs 38-11 and move to 23 points on the Super Rugby AU ladder, two points clear of Queensland.
On Friday the Reds crossed for eight tries in a 57-5 bonus-point victory over the Western Force, which temporarily gave them the competition lead before the Brumbies’ victory.
The Brumbies next face the winless Force and then take on the Reds in the final round, with the top team advancing straight through to a home grand final and second and third meeting in a preliminary final.
The Reds have the bye next round, followed by NSW (15 points) in the final week, giving both teams just one more chance to state their case for the play-offs.
The Rebels are on 14 points but have two matches ahead.
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The two teams are separated by just a point on the competition ladder, with the Waratahs (15) third behind the Brumbies (23) and Queensland, on 21.
The Waratahs have a final round bye, leaving them just the one match to earn points with the top three teams advancing to the play-offs.
If they lose to the Rebels, it’s season over – missing the finals for the fourth time in five years.
But if the Waratahs win with a bonus point, and deny the Rebels the same, they can earn five points and thus move six points clear, meaning that Melbourne won’t be able to catch them even with a big last-round win.
“The focus for us is do-or-die,” Waratahs defence coach Jason Gilmore said on Monday.
“We need to win this one and be really strong in the game to potentially stay in the competition so we will certainly be preparing really well.”
Gilmore said they expect the Rebels to bring the physicality at Leichhardt Oval, with the finals hopes on the line for both sides.
“The Rebels have good line-speed through the middle of the field and they like to be really physical,” Gilmore said on Monday.
“Their forwards like to intimidate and try to get on top of you.
“They try to be abrasive and try to throw you off your compass with how you play.”
Super Rugby AU scenarios:
Brumbies – currently 23 points – best 33
Queensland Reds – 21, best 26
NSW Waratahs – 15, best 20
Melbourne Rebels – 14 – best 24
Western Force – 2 – best 10