The Best of the Day preview charges into the ruck with Super Rugby AU tips for a clash between Melbourne Rebels and Western Force.
19:45 (AEST) @ AAMI Park, Melbourne
History: Played 13: Rebels 9 V Force 4
Last meeting: March 12, 2021: Rebels 10 d Force 7 at HBF Park
Final thoughts: The Best of the Day preview breaks down a crucial Super Rugby AU showdown as Melbourne Rebels and Western Force battle for third spot on the ladder. Neither side can catch the front-running Reds and Brumbies, but a place in the qualifying final is still up for grabs with three rounds to play.
SUPER RUGBY STANDINGS
Post-easter and Finals fast approaching: AU fight for top spot continues but who will get third spot; Aotearoa sees @Highlanders come to life to put pressure on @BluesRugbyTeam for a finals berth.#SuperRugbyAU#SuperRugbyAotearoa pic.twitter.com/y7kF4GhQiB
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) April 5, 2021
The 2-3 Rebels have been mostly competitive this season. After narrow – albeit try-less – defeats to the Reds (23-21) and Brumbies (27-24) in their first two, Melbourne carved out back-to-back wins over the Force (10-7) and Waratahs (33-14).
But the Rebels crashed 44-19 to the Reds at home last Saturday. They started disastrously, conceding three tries in the opening 17 minutes, and were unable to recover.
🚨 Team Announcement 🚨
✅ Wilko returns!
✅ Rob Leota is starting!
✅ Hodgey's back at fullback!
Here is your Match Day 23 to face the @westernforce!
— Melbourne Rebels (@MelbourneRebels) April 7, 2021
The Force’s sole win this season came against the hapless Waratahs, getting up 20-16 in Sydney in Round 3.
They pushed the Reds in a 26-19 loss in Round 5 but were humbled 42-14 by the Brumbies in their most recent outing after falling behind 28-0 at halftime.
Godwin returns for Rebels showdown 🙌
— Western Force (@westernforce) April 7, 2021
Thrillers mark renewed Rebels v Force rivalry
The Rebels have won all three Super Rugby AU clashes with the Force to date – but all three were nail-biters.
The Force’s nearest miss in a winless 2020 return came against the Rebels in Round 5, foiled by Isi Naisarani’s golden point try after the teams were locked at 20-all at the 80-minute mark.
The WA outfit was just as unlucky in the final round as Dane Haylett-Petty scored a 79th-minute try to snatch a 34-30 with for the Rebels.
The teams played out a grinding low-scorer in Round 4 this season, the Rebels holding on for a 10-7 victory in Perth.
The Rebels have the superior line-up on paper, headlined by classy superboots Matt Toomua and Reece Hodge, and the firepower provided by the likes of Marika Koroibete. But they haven’t shown enough to justify being double-digit favourites against a plucky Force.
I’ll take the Force with the points for a Best of the Day value pick.