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Western Force add plot twist in Super Rugby Pacific finals race

The Western Force are in the midst of a tough final week of this years Super Rugby Pacific season having to play three games in eight days with a flight from New Zealand to Perth thrown into the mix.But this challenging schedule will now decide whether their season ends on Saturday night or continues for at least another week.After copping a 54-21 hammering from the Chiefs in Hamilton last Saturday the Force quickly made their way up New Zealands State Highway 1 to Auckland to get ready for their match against competition newcomers Moana Pasifika on Tuesday night.This was the make-up game required from round 10 when the Force suddenly found themselves with more than 20 new positive COVID-19 cases in Perth meaning they were unable to field a team for thecompetitions inaugural Super Round in Melbourne on the Anzac Day weekend.

So three days after leaving Hamilton with their tail between their legs they rolled into Aucklands Mt Smart Stadium and played well enough to beat Moana Pasifika 48-28 earning a handy bonus point in the process.The result has added a bit of unexpected intrigue to the final round of Super Rugby Pacific where previously it was starting to look like the top eight was set ahead of next weeks quarter finals.Allow me to bring out the abacus.By defeating Moana Pasifika with the bonus point the Force moved to 19 points and within a win of the eighth-placed Highlanders on 22 points.For the Force to play finals they would need to beat the Hurricanes in Perth on Saturday night.

The Hurricanes can still break into the top four so it cannot be assumed they would send anything less than their best team over the other side of Australia.But not only do the Force need to beat a Hurricanes side with plenty to play for they also nthe Highlanders to lose to the Melbourne Rebels on Sunday. But it is not that simple. If the Force beat the Hurricanes with a bonus point they would move to 24 points. As long as theHig landers lost the Force would be through to the finals.But if the Force win without the bonus point and move to 23 points they would then need the Highlanders to lose to the Rebels by eight or more so as to not gain a losing bonus point.A losing bonus point would move the Highlanders to 23 points and with the same number of wins as the Force four their far superior points differential would see them through.
So in summary the Force need to win and then become huge Rebels fans on Sunday.The Rebels on 16 points cannot finish any higher than ninth and will miss the finals regardless of their result but they can do the Force a massive favour by winning.

Meanwhile the Queensland Reds are seventh on 35 points and cannot drop down the standings.
The Reds can finish as high as fifth place. A win over the Crusaders in Christchurch could help them get to sixth which would likely mean a trip to Canberra to face the Brumbies rather than another week in New Zealand.And they will have to do it without fly half James OConnor who on Monday was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring. He had just returned from a knee injury last week.

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