The inaugural Mazda Australian Rugby Championship is heading for a nail biting final round this weekend, with six of the eight teams still alive for the four semi-final berths.
The table-topping Western Sydney Rams host third placed Perth Spirit at Parramatta Stadium on Saturday night, with both teams keen to secure a home semi-final.
The Spirit will be hoping for a repeat of their performance in round one, when they defeated the Rams 21-13 in Perth.
Standing in the way of the West Australian franchise is a formidable Rams backline featuring Super 14 young guns Josh Holmes, Kurtley Beale and Lachie Turner, while the Spirit will call on Wallabies Matt Henjak and Scott Fava to push for victory.
On Sunday the Canberra Vikings will travel to Melbourne for a sudden death match with the Melbourne Rebels. Victory for either side will ensure a finals appearance. The Rebels will look to inspirational captain David Croft, while Vikings winger Eddie McLaughlin is the competition’s leading try scorer after seven rounds.
The Vikings will be out to avenge their 32-27 opening round defeat, while a finals appearance for the Rebels would cap an outstanding season for the competition dark-horses in a new Representative Rugby frontier.
The Sydney Fleet take on a resurgent Central Coast Rays outfit in Gosford, with both teams running hot after big wins in round seven. In what shapes as a do or die clash, both teams will be desperate to secure a bonus point victory to claim a spot in the finals. The losers are likely to miss the finals altogether.
The Fleet took the honours over the Rays in the season opener 25-19 at North Sydney Oval.
For the Sydney Fleet, Wallaby Morgan Turinui is in fine form while fullback Gavin Debartolo has been one of the Mazda ARC’s star players throughout the campaign.
The Central Coast Rays have been ably directed by Waratahs scrumhalf Brett Sheehan.
Round 8 kicks off at Ballymore with a battle for bragging rights as the Ballymore Tornadoes and East Coast Aces fight to avoid the wooden spoon. A bonus point win would see the Tornadoes leapfrog their Queensland rivals, and condemn the Aces to last place.