Reds’ title defence bogged down in finals-bound traffic
The Reds’ stuttering start to the season and inadequate try-scoring appears set to deny last year’s champions a chance to defend their Super Rugby title in the post-season finals series.
The Ewen McKenzie-coached Reds survived a huge scare against the Highlanders at Lang Park on Friday to notch their fifth straight win but head into the final round of the southern hemisphere provincial championship’s regular season with their destiny in other teams’ hands.
The Reds lie seventh on the ladder on 53 points, one point out of the top six that will contest the finals, and praying that at least one out of the four vulnerable teams above them slip up against the competition’s cellar-dwellers.
The Reds should have little trouble beating the hapless Waratahs in their last match at Lang Park, but will hope one of the Brumbies (58 points), Crusaders (56), Bulls (54) or Sharks (54) are upset in the final round.
None of the four appears likely to be.
The third-placed Brumbies need only a single point from their home game against the insipid Blues at Canberra Stadium to seal their playoffs berth as winners of the Australian conference.
A loss by less than eight points to the Blues would secure a bonus point and be enough for them to qualify and deny the Reds any hope of stealing top spot in the conference.
The Crusaders, in fourth spot, are also in the box seat as they head home to Christchurch to play the 14th-placed Western Force.
In hosting the Lions in Pretoria, the fifth-placed Bulls face a team fighting to avoid the wooden sp