The Brumbies are banking on their big-game experience to steer them into the Super Rugby AU grand final, however the Western Force have shown they’re up for the fight of a sudden-death showdown.
The teams meet in the qualifying final in Canberra on Saturday night, with the winner facing the Queensland Reds in Brisbane in a week’s time.
Force coach Tim Sampson isn’t intimidated by the task of downing the defending premiers, on Friday describing the Brumbies’ recent form as “clunky” and saying the home team infringe a lot.
Having won the Super Rugby AU crown last year and reached the semi-finals of the regular 15-team competition in 2019, the Brumbies are well-versed in handling play-off pressure.
It’s the Force’s first taste of finals football since their inception in 2006.
Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa said that edge in experience would be an advantage.
“I think experience is great – having that pressure feeling that we had in the final last year and that build-up to the final is crucial,” the Wallabies prop said on Friday
“A lot of our experienced boys have stepped up this week to make sure that everyone does take it up a notch.”
The Force have shown a never-say-die attitude in their past three games, securing last-gasp wins to march into the three-team finals.
That included serving up the Reds’ only loss of the season a week ago, with a 73rd minute try snatching a 30-27 victory.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 30, 2021
Alaalatoa predicted a similar tight finish.
“That’s what finals footy comes down to; we definitely know it will go down to whole 80 minutes so we know our finishers are going to have to do a good job,” he said.
“We know the Force have a lot of momentum from the last three games but we’ve had a good week of prep and we need to take our chances when they come.”
After two heavy losses against the Brumbies this season, Sampson said his team needed to start well to put the home side on the back foot and silence the home crowd at GIO Stadium.
“It’s important to get a good start against the Brumbies; to get in that arm wrestle and not fall behind on the scoreboard early,” he said.
“It’s a big focus for us and we’re going to have to be bloody good at it.”
Sampson said his team continued to set new goals, with their self-belief sky high.
“Last year and the start of this competition we hadn’t beaten any team so we’re ticking boxes and there’s another box to be ticked, and that’s beating the Brumbies at home.
“We’re riding a wave at the moment and the Brumbies in the last couple of games have been a bit clunky.
“We’ve got to maintain possession for long periods; they infringe a lot in all areas of the game so we’ve got to hold on to the ball as much as possible and play in good areas of the field.”
– Melissa Woods
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