The Reds are still alive in Super Rugby after a late try to standout centre Samu Kerevi snuffed out a second half comeback by the home side, securing a 29-24 win.
It’s crunch time for the Australian conference this evening in Melbourne, with the Rebels and Reds both desperately needing a win to stay within touching distance of the conference-leading Brumbies. Join The Roar from 7:30pm (AEST) for all the action.
While many would say the Rebels are already shot ducks this season, and the Reds aren’t far behind them, the inability of all Australian sides to match it with New Zealand and South African opposition means that despite only winning one game and two games respectively, the local conference is still wide open.
That said, whoever loses tonight can almost certainly start planning for next year; in whatever format the competition will be.
Looking at the team sheets, the Reds have been buoyed with the news that Karmichael Hunt, close to their best this year, has been ruled fit to play. They also welcome back Nick Frisby to partner Quade Cooper in the halves; Cooper this week denying that he wasn’t fully fit, despite there being suspicions to the contrary.
Up front, a pack that promises much on paper has yet to deliver as a unit, despite some heroic performances from George Smith and Scott Higginbotham (who returns to play against the side he once captained), and good signs from Lukhan Tui.
The Rebels are delighted to welcome back their talisman Sean McMahon, who will make his long awaited first appearance this year off the bench, joining standout No.8 Amanaki Mafi in the loose. On the debit side, flanker Colby Fainga’a remains doubtful with a nagging quadriceps injury, but will be given until close to match time to prove his fitness.
Winger Marika Koroibete enjoyed his best match since switching to rugby, last week against the Lions, and the Rebels backline will be trying to provide him with more running opportunity, as they will Sefa Naivalu, who has not had much play run his way in recent weeks.
This is a very tricky game to assess. The Reds have a terrible recent record away from home, now having gone over 12 months since their last win. Last week they started well against the Chiefs, but their second half was poor, including set piece capitulation that gifted away easy points.
They will however fancy themselves against a Rebels side that has struggled for cohesion with key personnel out, and again tonight has question marks about the halves combination at this level.
The Rebels however, have proven more than competitive against Australian sides, downing the Brumbies and only falling to the Waratahs in the final minute. They have enjoyed a week at home to prepare, and should be highly motivated for what should be an entertaining and willing fixture.
It’s tempting to take the easy route and opt for a draw, but the Reds’ away form is too bad to ignore. Rebels to win a close one, by 3 points.