Unbeaten Reds, Brumbies go head to head in Super Rugby

March 17, 2022 GMT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The Queensland Reds and ACT Brumbies meet Friday in a contest between the only unbeaten teams after four rounds of Super Rugby Pacific, extending a rivalry which has become one of the strongest among Australian teams.

The Reds beat the Brumbies 19-16 in last season’s final of Super Rugby Australia with a try four minutes into stoppage time, ending a season in which the teams met three times and couldn’t be separated by more than three points.

With all but one match in the New Zealand section of the tournament postponed this weekend because of outbreaks of COVID-19 among the teams, the match in Australia’s capital on Friday will be the fitting focus of all attention in the tournament’s fifth round.

The Brumbies, who host the match, are coming off a comfortable 36-17 win over the Melbourne Rebels. The Reds held on last weekend for a narrow win over the Fijian Drua and are strengthened by the return of co-captain Liam Wright, who will start on the bench after recovering from a shoulder injury. Center Isaac Henry returns from a foot injury, also on the bench.

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“We’ve developed a good rivalry with the Brumbies,” Reds coach Brad Thorn said. “They’re on top of the table and playing good rugby.

“It’s great to have Liam Wright and Isaac Henry both available for selection. They’ve worked hard to overcome their injuries and they”ll do their job as finishers this week.”

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has made four changes to his lineup, including three in the tight five.

Wallabies veteran James Slipper returns at loosehead prop and Folau Fainga’a at hooker, while Darcy Swain joins Nick Frost in the second row.

Swain has vivid memories of the loss to the Reds in last year’s final, sealed by James O’Connor’s injury-time try.

“They carried on a bit, I thought. I just want to go out there and shut them up this weekend,” said Swain, who was born and raised in Queensland state before moving to Canberra to join the Brumbies program. “It’s been sitting in the back of everyone’s minds, that sort of bitterness of last year and the way it ended.

“But as much as it hurts, we’ve got to go out there this weekend and stick to our guns. We have to play our game and be physical, have a good set-piece and play on top of them.”

In other matches in Australia, the Drua play the Western Force and the New South Wales Waratahs meet the Melbourne Rebels, who are without a win after three games.

Moana Pasifika will play the Hamilton-based Chiefs on Saturday in the only match in New Zealand.

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