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The ACT Brumbies host the Western Force on Saturday evening at GIO Stadium, Canberra. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:45pm (AEST).
In another odds-defying performance, the Force beat the Reds last week by a narrow margin. Not only did they beat the bookies by reaching the final rounds, their performance had an indirect impact on the fate of their former coach, Dave Wessels.
The Force’s season was a mixed bag. But that bag was good enough to beat the Reds, the Force, and the Waratahs twice. But not the Brumbies. Not yet. Not since 2013.
The Brumbies’ performance this year was not as dominating as last. Other than the matches against the Force, and one game against the Waratahs, all their scores have been within seven points of the opponent. While it’s mostly due to other teams’ improvements, it is also because the Brumbies’ bench has not been able to maintain the dominance of the starting team.
The Brumbies are almost in full force today, with the return of Pete Samu and Irae Simone. Tom Cusack is still injured, which means Luke Reimer is expected to debut today. The players to study today are the reserves, who are expected to finish off the game with no excuses.
The Force lost Tevita Kuridrani to suspension. He is replaced by the capable Richard Kahui. The rest of the team is intact, with their attack ably led by the brilliant Argentinian halves Tomas Cubelli and Domingo Miotti. Their pack is good. The back-rowers are well balanced.
The back-row battle, especially late in the second half, will be the one to watch. It will be experience versus youth. However, it is expected that the Brumbies will pull away in the first 40 to 55 minutes unless wily players such as Jeremy Thrush, Greg Holmes and the Argentinean halves can find a way to dominate the tempo of the game.
The Brumbies are faster, younger, and stronger. They have not lost to the Force in almost a decade. But the Force, down almost two tries in the first half last week, bounced back against a well drilled Queensland team, albeit partly due to strange on-field decisions by the Reds. Today, however, it would be an even bigger miracle if the Force can pull off another one.
Kick-off: 7:45pm (AEST)
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Live stream: Stan Sport
Betting: Brumbies $1.14, Force $5.70 (odds via PlayUp)
15. Tom Banks, 14. Andy Muirhead, 13. Len Ikitau, 12. Irae Simone, 11. Tom Wright, 10. Noah Lolesio, 9. Nic White, 8. Pete Samu, 7. Rory Scott, 6. Rob Valetini, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 4. Darcy Swain, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2. Folau Fainga’a, 1. James Slipper. Replacements: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Nick Frost, 20. Luke Reimer, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Reesjan Pasitoa, 23. Mack Hansen.
15. Jake Strachan, 14. Toni Pulu, 13. Richard Kahui, 12. Kyle Godwin (captain), 11. Jordan Olowofela, 10. Domingo Miotti, 9. Tomás Cubelli, 8. Brynard Stander, 7. Kane Koteka, 6. Fergus Lee-Warner, 5. Sitaleki Timani, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Santiago Medrano, 2. Feleti Kaitu’u, 1. Tom Robertson. Replacements: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Angus Wagner, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Tim Anstee, 21. Ian Prior, 22. Henry Taefu, 23. Jack McGregor.