During the Reds’ resurgence year in 2010, they fell just short of appearing in the finals for the first time in years. This year’s outcome looks to be pretty similar.
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly think the Reds of 2012 have the game to make a real fist of finals should they get that far, but it is never a good situation to be in to need other things to happen to make it. It’s much better having your destiny in your own hands.
So, what are these scenarios? Basically, it goes a little like this…
There are two ways the Reds can qualify, Win or Win with a bonus point. If they win without a bonus point they would be on 57 points. That would be enough for them to qualify if one of the following happens:
- the Cheetahs beat the Sharks (possible, and probably the greatest hope), or
- the Lions beat the Bulls (dreaming), or
- the Force beat the Crusaders (more dreaming).
To add a bit of peril to this, the Reds would need two of the above to happen if (again, unlikely but quite possible) the Hurricanes score a bonus point win against the Chiefs.
The second scenario that gets them some finals action is a bonus point win over the Waratahs (how many times has that happened in a Templeton Cup match?). If they get the BP win, they need any one of the following:
- the Sharks get anything less than a 5 point win against the Cheetahs, or
- the Bulls get anything less than a 5 point win against the Lions, or
- the Crusaders lose to or draw with the Force.
There is one other twist to this too, just to add some colour. If the Brumbies should lose by more than 7 and not score four tries (that is, if they fail to pick up a BP) against the Blues on Saturday night, then the Reds would not only make the finals, but winning the Aussie conference would let them host a Qualifying Final. They will know the result of that match before taking the field.
So, the only real thing, other than mathematics, standing in their way is the Waratahs. The Tahs may be coming off a record number of losses and looking like they couldn’t be bothered, but one suspects waltzing into Suncorp with plans of taking the BP and planning training and travel for the finals is a sure way to ensure an early mad Monday.
The Waratahs will lift, and if the Reds don’t be careful, they will spoil the run. The Reds’ best bet is to come out firing. If they can rack up some quick points while not conceding many the Waratahs’ heads will drop and the bonus point will be possible. But they have to hit them hard, early.
The Waratahs’ best bet will be to stick it up the jumper and not let the Reds have the ball at all. The need to win and the desire to score a BP will be strong; if they can reduce the damage early, the desperation will start to tell. The only problem with this plan is the Waratahs’ tendency for aimless kicking (I don’t care about how much they kick; it’s the lack of quality of kicks that lets them down), and poor handling will make holding the ball an equal liability.
On the Red side, coach Ewen McKenzie has been able to slot in the returning Liam Gill (hamstring) and Digby Ioane (pneumonia) into the starting team. Beau Robinson overcomes his own injury scare to be on the bench and Digby replaces the injured F’Sautia. There may be a cloud over Rob Simmons due to his knee tweak in last week’s game, with Blake Enever and Nick Frisby bracketed on the bench.
For the Waratahs, Siteleki Timani replaces Wycliff Palu who has been ruled out through injury. That’s the only change to the team that lost to the Brumbies last week. It isn’t a straight swap, though — Timani is into the second row, with Dean Mumm moving to 6 and Dave Dennis dropping back to 8.
1. Greg Holmes, 2. Saia Faingaa, 3. James Slipper, 4. Rob Simmons, 5. Adam Wallace-Harrison (vc), 6. Jake Schatz, 7. Liam Gill, 8. Scott Higginbotham, 9. Will Genia, 10. Quade Cooper, 11. Digby Ioane, 12. Mike Harris, 13. Anthony Faingaa, 14. Dom Shipperley, 15. Luke Morahan.
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Lachie Turner, 13. Rob Horne, 12. Berrick Barnes, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Bernard Foley, 9. Grayson Hart, 8. Dave Dennis, 7. Chris Alcock, 6. Dean Mumm, 5. Kane Douglas, 4. Sitaleki Timani, 3. Paddy Ryan, 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1. Benn Robinson (c).
Reserves: 16. John Ulugia, 17. Jeremy Tilse, 18. Lopeti Timani, 19. Jono Jenkins, 20. Brendan McKibbin, 21. Tom Carter, 22. Tom Kingston.
VENUE & TIME: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Saturday July 14 at 7:30pm (AEST)
Be sure to get there a little earlier too, because something plenty of people say should be done, is being done. There is a curtain-raiser: the annual City v. Country match kicks off at 5:15pm. Last year the Country boys got up 27–26 in a tough match. Will they be able to go back-to-back?
I wish I could make this tip after 20 minutes to see if the Reds are firing or the Tahs have burrowed in, but I guess plenty of tipsters would like that luxury each week. I think the Reds’ mindset might just give the edge; the Tahs must be a mess mentally, and with the touch QC and co. are in there is a good chance for a bit of a blowout. The fact it is a Templeton Cup match is my only concern with this prediction. But there it is — Reds with a bonus point win, and the finals await. Maybe.