Reds and Tahs eye Super finals - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Reds and Tahs eye Super finals

By Adrian Warren 25/04/2010 02:36:08 PM Comments (0)

Australia can dare to dream of supplying two Super rugby semi-finalists for the first time in eight years, but Queensland must break two of their longest hoodoos to complete their fairytale resurgence.

The Bulls (39 points) regained top spot on the ladder and sprinted five points clear with a 51-11 drubbing of the last-placed Lions (5) in Pretoria, but just a single point separates second from fifth.

With three rounds remaining, the Stormers, Crusaders and Reds (all 34) are separated only by points differential, with the Waratahs (33) close behind.

The maturing Reds proved they can be gritty as well as pretty, shading the Stormers 16-13 in Brisbane.

NSW ground out a 19-12 home win over the Brumbies (27), which left the latter teetering over the elimination precipice, seven points off fourth spot.

While neither NSW or Queensland improved their ladder position, the 11th placed Force (14) did them both a mighty favour with a stirring 24-16 upset home win over the Crusaders, a result which could have calamitous consequences for the seven-time Super champions.

The Crusaders have the nightmare double of the Bulls and Stormers in South Africa, before finishing at home to the Brumbies.

If they lose both games in South Africa, the Crusaders could very well miss out on the finals for the first time since 2001, the only year New Zealand failed to supply a semi-finalist.

The Bulls and Stormers play each other and both have to face the resurgent Sharks, who after losing their first five games, have climbed the ladder by stealth with five successive wins.

Only twice, in 2001 and 2002, have Australia provided two semi-finalists.

On paper, the Reds and Waratahs have the easiest draws of the finals contenders, as neither will face another current top-five team, though both will be away for the next two rounds.

Queensland face the Brumbies and Hurricanes before hosting the struggling Highlanders (13) in the last round.

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie earned a reputation as a bogey-buster during his time at the helm of the Waratahs and may need to work his magic again over the next two weeks.

Queensland have won only one out of 15 Super games against the Brumbies, back in 1999, and have lost all eight of their tournament clashes in Canberra.

They have also struggled away to the Hurricanes, losing five straight to them in New Zealand since their last triumph 12 years ago.

The Waratahs finish off with three matches against New Zealand opposition, away to the Highlanders and Chiefs before a last-round home assignment against the Hurricanes.

Ten teams still have a mathematical chance of making the finals.

The Hurricanes (27), trail the Brumbies only on points differential following a 33-31 away win over the Highlanders, while the Sharks and Blues (both 25) and Chiefs (24) still retain faint hopes of a finals berth.

The Sharks defeated the Blues 23-10 in Durban, while the Chiefs drew 25-25 with the Cheetahs (11) in Hamilton, despite scoring five tries to three.

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