Force keen to gatecrash finals with win over Brumbies

Justin Chadwick |

Force players will be hoping for a few results going their way to see them play in the finals.
Force players will be hoping for a few results going their way to see them play in the finals.

Western Force coach Simon Cron says it feels like a case of deja vu as his team’s Super Rugby Pacific finals hopes again comes down to the final round.

Last week’s 59-13 loss to the Reds in Queensland meant the Force entered the final round two points adrift of the eighth-placed Fijian Drua (21 points).

But after the Crusaders smashed Moana Pasifika 43-10 in a seven-tries-to-one rout on Friday to move up to eighth (24) and dropping the Drua down one spot, it means the Force must rely on the soon-to-be-axed Melbourne Rebels winning in Fiji on Saturday for their finals hopes to stay alive.

If that scenario eventuates, the Force need to beat the third-placed ACT Brumbies later that night and achieve a bonus point (for scoring three or more tries than the opposition) in the process in order to scrape into the finals.

The situation the Force now confront is similar to last year, when Cron’s men entered the final round needing to beat the Chiefs as well as relying on other results to go their way in order to make the finals.

The Chiefs won that match 43-19 in Perth to crush the hosts’ dreams.

Cron noted the deja vu aspect to the must-win clash with the Brumbies.

“Ideally we would have dealt with a few things earlier in the season and we wouldn’t be having this scenario,” Cron said on Friday.

“But it’s the scenario we’re in, it’s the job we’ve got to do, so get into it.

“There’ll be eyes on (the other games). However, for us it doesn’t change what we’ve got to do and our mentality going into the game.”

Simon Cron.
Simon Cron watches his side warm up before their round-13 win against the Waratahs. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

The Force suffered a big blow this week when in-form Wallabies five-eighth Ben Donaldson was ruled out of action due to a tight groin.

Max Burey has been named as his replacement.

“Max gets to step up now,” Cron said.

“For us, we’ve got to build that depth. The next man up has to step up.

“It gives Max a great learning opportunity, and he’s got good combinations with some of those guys out there too.”

The third-placed Brumbies will finish on top of the ladder if they can beat the Force and both the Blues and Hurricanes lose.

But they will have to do it without veteran prop James Slipper, whose calf injury will also rule him out of the first week of the finals.

Saturday’s match will pit star Force halfback Nic White against his former teammates.