Rebels vs. Western Force
Saturday, September 12 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Both the Rebels and the Reds won last weekend but their route to this qualifying final came about in very different ways. The Reds – already assured of the second spot in the ladder and with essentially nothing to play for – put on a dominating showing against the table-topping Brumbies in a 26-7 win in front of almost 10,000 fans at Suncorp. It was an impressive victory and the Queenslanders are hoping it will act as a marker for the Brumbies to be a little fearful should they achieve a win here and earn the right to travel to GIO Stadium against the team from the capital in the final next weekend.
The Rebels – on the other hand – did everything they could to not make it to the Qualifying Final at all. After putting themselves in a position where all they needed to do was beat the Western Force – a team with just two points on the season who hadn’t been competitive in over a month – by four points, the Rebels were down by three with literally one minute left in the game. This was despite being 20-8 up just before half-time and seemingly cruising to finishing ahead of the watching Waratahs on the ladder. Then it all fell apart.
It took a Cabous Eloff try in the 79th minute – after a TMO review – and the resulting 80th-minute conversion from Matt Toomua to put away the Force by exactly the four points that the Rebels required to qualify for the playoffs – albeit in a shortened season and league – for the first time in their Super RUgby (they joined in 2011) history.
The Reds will be looking to their breakdown pests to control this game as both Liam Wright and Fraser McReight have been in superb form this season. MeReight has been especially impressive, with the 21-year-old flanker having picked up 17 turnovers – the most in the competition – more than double the number of Michael Hooper (eight) of the Waratahs, the player who is probably the most renowned breakdown artist in the tournament.
The Rebels won’t be afraid of the Reds here. Their first match back in Round 2 ended in an 18-18 draw, while their Round 7 clash was a 19-3 defeat that was far closer in skill than the score would suggest. Dane Haylett-Petty will be a focal point for the Rebels in attack here as they look to make a few fewer mistakes in the critical areas when pressing against the Reds line than they did in their last encounter. The Rebels will have plenty of big-name – and experienced – players to call upon in the likes of Test players Toomua, Reece Hodge, and excitement machine Marika Koroibete.
The Rebels have had a great season but the Reds are a cut above the team from Melbourne in terms of overall talent and that will show here. Look to play the point spread and take the Reds to win this -8.5 at 0.90 with BetXChange to set up a mouth-watering final against the Brumbies next weekend.