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Reds and Waratahs busted ahead of finals

By Darren Walton 12/06/2011 05:17:53 PM Comments (0)

The injury-ravaged Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs are in a race against the clock to be ready for the Super Rugby finals.

The Reds (62 points) all but clinched the minor premiership and a home semi-final with a 24-21 escape act against the Western Force in Perth on Saturday night.

But the vital win came at a cost with Luke Morahan likely to miss the rest of the competition after tearing his hamstring and fellow winger Rod Davies hurting his shoulder in his comeback match.

Already without the services of key backs Anthony Faingaa, Peter Hynes and Ben Lucas, the Reds will be desperate to pick up at least a bonus point for a four-try defeat or loss by no more than seven points against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday night.

Such a result, or victory, would earn the long-time tournament frontrunners a rest in the first week of the finals before a sudden-death playoff at home.

"That would allow a couple of our players that are injured maybe time to come back," Queensland coach Ewen McKenzie said.

"That would be nice. I think everyone understands the logistical challenges of the competition so, if you don't have to travel, it makes a big difference.

"I think if you look through the history of the tournament, the teams that travel less in the finals do better."

The Reds retained top spot thanks to 78th-minute try to replacement winger Dom Shipperley, the late steal once again breaking Force hearts after a season of near-misses.

The Waratahs (52pts) regained control of their finals destiny with a spirited 33-7 bonus-point win over the Highlanders in Sydney.

Despite still sitting outside the top six in seventh position, the Waratahs are guaranteed a playoff spot if they overcome the 13th-placed Brumbies at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

Should the Waratahs win the Australian derby, either the fifth-placed Bulls or sixth-placed Sharks (both on 53 points) will slip out of the top six after their South African shootout in Pretoria early next Sunday (AEST).

NSW may well be without Wallabies trio Berrick Barnes, Wycliff Palu and Tatafu Polota-Nau, who all failed to finish Saturday night's win over the Highlanders.

Barnes, who has been sidelined for several weeks this year after a series of head knocks, lasted just 35 minutes before trudging off feeling nauseous.

The playmaking midfielder will have further tests during the week and is said to be a "wait-and-see" proposition, while Palu (shoulder) and Polota-Nau (knee) were awaiting results of scans on Monday.

The defending champion Bulls kept their finals hopes alive with a hard-earned 19-16 win over the second-placed Stormers (58) in Cape Town.

It was the Bulls' sixth straight win, while defeat for the Stormers left them in danger of losing their home-final advantage.

The Crusaders (57) climbed above the Blues (56) to third overall and first in the New Zealand conference with a 23-16 victory over the Aucklanders at Timaru.

The second-placed Stormers must score a bonus-point win over the Cheetahs away in Bloemfontein in the last round to clinch a top-two berth.

Otherwise the Crusaders can earn a weekend off with a big home win over the Hurricanes.

The fourth-placed Blues will be desperate to end a four-game losing streak entering the finals when they host the Highlanders on Friday night.

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