The Best of the Day preview charges into the ruck with Super Rugby AU tips for a clash between Melbourne Rebels and Western Force. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tip: Handicap – Force +9.5 @ $1.90