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Preview: ARC, Round Eight

Article Published: Friday 28 September 2007
Edited by: Sports Digital Media
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Preview: ARC, Round Eight
There are permutations abound in the Australian Rugby Championship (ARC) as only one team - the Western Sydney Rams - has been guaranteed a place in the play-off's.

Just two points separate the sixth placed Canberra Vikings from the Central Coast Rays, who are currently second on the table with 21 points.

The Perth Spirit have their backs against the wall as they have to win against the Rams on Saturday. If they don't they face the prospect of finishing as low as sixth on the table. The Rams will want to win to secure a top place finish though. There is evidently a lot to play for.

The Central Coast Rays face the same predicament when they host the Sydney Fleet on Sunday, but like the Spirit, the team from Gosford could finish as high as first place depending on the final results of their respective games.

At the moment only two points separate the Rays from the Spirit, should the race come down to points difference. The one critical factor is that both teams will need to win comprehensively to eclipse the Rams.
The Melbourne Rebels can finish as high as second place, if the other results play in their favour. But they would need to beat the Canberra Vikings, which won't necessarily be an easy task.

The Canberra Vikings on the other hand have to secure maximum points in Melbourne and hope that the Fleet and Spirit lose their games to finish within the top four.

The only game that has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the ARC is the East Coast Aces v the Ballymore Tornadoes on Saturday.

Saturday September, 29

Ballymore Tornadoes v East Coast Aces
Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane, 15.00 (05.00 GMT)

The Tornadoes are without injured flank Dan Linde. Scott Higginbotham comes in on the blindside with Tristan Hill winning a spot on the bench. Elia Tuqiri retains his spot at pivot in an otherwise unchanged line-up to the one that narrowly lost 21-17 to the Spirit last week.

Following the four-match suspension of Ben Lucas for his spear tackle against the Fleet last week Quade Cooper will have the responsibility of controlling the Aces back-line movements. The return of Sam Batty has effectively meant that the Aces half-back pairing has changed completely.

Watai Walker was relegated to the bench after Llyod Johnson recovered from his knee injury. The Aces final line of defence will be covered by John Dart with Marshall Milroy shifting back to the bench.

The game itself is of no consequence with respect to the ARC title race and surely won't draw the crowds. Both the Queensland based teams have had an appalling ARC campaign thus far. The battle for the wooden spoon is still on and pride in this derby will certainly be a factor, without a shadow of a doubt.

While the Aces major flaw is their defence, the Tornadoes have very few attacking options, which should balance the teams out somewhat.

Prediction: The home ground advantage won't be as big a factor as it usually is in the ARC, as the Tornadoes don't have a good record either away or at home - they have won just one game the whole season. The Aces are a capable team and should avoid the embarrassment of finishing on the bottom of the table. Expect the aces to win by at least ten points.

The Teams:

Ballymore Tornadoes:15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Paul Doneley, 13 Donovan Slade, 12 Tim Sampson
11 Blair Connor, 10 Elia Tuqiri, 9 Will Genia, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Tom McVerry (c), 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 Ben Coutts, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Shon Siemonek,
Replacements: 16 Geoff Abram, 17 Ernest Skelton, 18 Tristan Hill, 19 Steve Miller, 20 Brendan McKibbin, 21 David Collis, 22 Byron Roberts

East Coast Aces15 John Dart, 14 Andrew Walker, 13 Charlie Fetoai, 12 Lloyd Johansson, 11 Henari Veratau, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Sam Batty, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 AJ Gilbert, 6 Dan Ese, 5 Josh Afu, 4 Will Munsie, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Jade Ingham, 1 Tama Tuirirangi
Replacements: 16 Joe Tufuga, 17 Lloyd Campbell-McBride, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Bo Paraha, 20 Curtis Franks, 21 Watai Walker, 22 Marshall Milroy

Referee: Simon Moore
Touch judges: Craig Hills, Paul Haydock
Television match official: Steve Leszczynski

Western Sydney Rams v Perth Spirit
Parramatta Stadium, Sydney, 19.30 (09.30 GMT)

The Rams are unchanged from the team that absolutely walked over the Vikings last week. Why would they change a winning formula? Consistency in selection has been the key for the Rams this season and their results have given it proof.

The Spirit will be inspired by the return of their captain Matt Henjak in what will be their toughest game of the season. His replacement in the less than convincing victory over the Tornadoes, James Stannard has been relegated to the bench. Another major boost is the return of prop AJ Whalley, who was also rested against the Tornadoes.

When the Rams have had their full-strength team available they haven't looked like loosing. They certainly made a statement against the Vikings last week and will know all to well the significance of playing at home. It is essential that they retain their top place on the standings. Expect a viscous onslaught from the not so tame Rams.

The Perth Spirit are arguably the most talented ARC team, on paper anyway. They didn't get off to the most convincing of starts but have shown what they are capable of in recent weeks.

Full-back Cameron Shepherd was very influential in the team finding form but has since joined the Wallaby World Cup squad.

His absence hasn't had too negative an effect though as the team has continued to surge up the ARC table. The games against the Rams will be the final frontier for the visitors. As the old adage goes, "you have to beat the best to be the best."

That will most certainly apply for the Spirit on Saturday.

Prediction: It is in all honesty extremely difficult to foresee the Rams losing at the Parramatta Stadium, especially at this stage in the tournament. The Spirit, as talented a team as they are will struggle to penetrate what is a formidable Rams unit. The Rams will win by at least ten points.

Western Sydney Rams15 Lachie Turner, 14 Ben Martin, 13 Luke Johnson, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Fa'atonu Fili, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Josh Holmes, 8 Tom Egan, 7 Wil Brame, 6 Hugh Perrett, 5 Van Humphries, 4 Ben Hand (c), 3 Aaron Broughton-Rouse, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Alexander
Replacements: 16 Peter Niumata, 17 James Lakepa, 18 Marty Wilson, 19 Mark Howell, 20 David Rimmer, 21 Chris Siale, 22 Mark Preston.

Perth Spirit15 Luke McLean, 14 Ed Jenkins, 13 Nick Cummins, 12 Ryan Cross, 11 Jackson Mullane, 10 Scott Daruda, 9 Matt Henjak (c), 8 Scott Fava, 7 Richard Brown, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Tom Hockings, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Luke Holmes, 1 Gareth Hardy
Replacements: 16 Tai McIsaac, 17 AJ Whalley, 18 Luke Doherty, 19 Will Brock-Brown, 20 James Stannard, 21 Todd Feather, 22 Kane Allen

Referee: Matt Goddard
Touch judges: George Ayoub, Damian Mitchelmore

Sunday September, 30

Central Coast Rays v Sydney Fleet
Bluetongue Stadium, Gosford, 16.00 (06.00 GMT)

The Rays have made only one change to the starting side that embarrassed the Rebels 55-7 last week. Wing Andrew Smith has recovered from a hamstring injury and takes the place of Patrick McCabe, who reverts to the bench.

Viliame Ratu has retained the number eight spot, edging out the embattled Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who returns from a one match suspension.The Fleet have rushed flanker Patrick McCutcheon back into their starting side for a reshuffle in the back row. Dean Mumm returns to the blindside flank with Tim Davidson moving to number eight. Todd

Both teams have made interesting selections for Sunday's clash. Although Waerea-Hargreaves was guilty of ill-discipline a fortnight ago, he is a key component of the Rays team, which will miss his exuberance.

The Rays have also showed a tremendous turn-around in recent weeks, recording some outstanding wins in the ARC. The 55-7 thrashing of the Rebels away from home proved exactly what the team from Gosford is capable of.

The Rays are the form team at the minute and will want to boost their chances of finishing top of the table - as minimal as they are.

Prediction: The Fleet have a slight problem this weekend. They travel to Gosford to play the in form team of the ARC. As much as they will wish to cause an upset, the reality is that have yet to win away from home in this competition. We can't foresee that record changing against the Rays. The rays are outright favourites for this match, and so they should be. expect the Gosford team to accumulate another 40 points this Sunday.

Central Coast Rays15 Peter Hewat, 14 Andrew Smith, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Sam Harris, 11 Jye Mullane,10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Viliame Ratu, 7 Ross Duncan, 6 Beau Robinson, 5 Chris Thomson, 4 Cameron Treloar (c), 3 Aaron Tawera, 2 Al Manning, 1 Ofa Fainga'anuku,
Replacements: 16 Alex Gluth, 17 Nick Lah, 18 Nifo Nifo, 19 Dylan Sigg, 20 Patrick McCabe, 21 David Harvey, 22 Clint Eadie.

Sydney Fleet15 Gavin DeBartolo. 14 Alfi Mafi, 13 Morgan Turinui, 12 Tom Azar, 11 Junior Puroku, 10 Daniel Halangahu, 9 Nathan Sievert, 8 Tim Davidson [c], 7 Pat McCutcheon, 6 Dean Mumm, 5 Adam Byrnes, 4 Will Caldwell, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Atonio Halangahu, 1 Jeremy Tilse
Replacements: 16 Todd Pearce 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Matt Whittleson, 19 Ed Brenac, 20 James Price, 21 Anton La Vin, 22 Arthur Little.

Referee: Nathan Pearce
Touch judges: Bradley Wahl, Daniel Cheever

Melbourne Rebels v Canberra Vikings
Olympic Park, Melbourne, 16.00 (06.00 GMT)

The Rebels have made two changes to the staring line-up that got hammered by the Rays last week. The Rebels have hastened to recall Wallaby lock Matt Cockbain to the starting team, after having a break in that 55-7 drubbing against the Rays.

The back-line received a boost with inside-centre Jack Farrer returning to the starting XV for this crucial clash.

This is a big game for the Vikings and they have pulled out all the stops to secure a victory on Sunday.

In what is a new look team to that which lost to 51-17 to the Rams, seven changes have been made.

In the only forced change prop Nic Henderson has been ruled out of the campaign through a shoulder injury.For Henderson the 2008 Super 14 campaign will be the focus from hereon end.

Dan Raymond comes in at loosehead with Jack Kennedy switching to tighthead. Hooker Saia Faingaa returns from a five-week lay-off due to a hamstring injury to complete a new-look front row. Flank Jack Vanderglas returns at blindside forcing utility forward Peter Kimlin to play at lock.

In the backs, Patrick Phibbs starts ahead of Nick Haydon at scrum-half, while full-back Tim Wright has been named in the starting side but will be given until Friday to prove his fitness.

He sustained an ankle injury against the Rams and should he fail to pass as fit, he will be replaced by the competent Solomon Fainifo.

Wing Francis Fainifo will miss the match after tearing his left hamstring on Saturday night - his place in the side will be taken by Tim Cornforth.

Both the Rebels and the Vikings have been at the top of the ARC table at some stage this year. The Rebels have been impressive throughout the ARC campaign despite the surprise loss to the Rays last week.

The Vikings, who were at the leading points scorers in the ARC for a very long time, are going through a very rough patch at the moment.

It is proven that when they win they win comprehensively, but fans have seen very little of that lethal team of late. If anything, the Vikings have been bitterly disappointing.

Prediction: The Rebels are at home and home-advantage has been a big factor for the Rebels in the ARC. Both teams have been somewhat unpredictable in recent weeks, as their respective results will show. It will be just has difficult to predict the score this week as the Vikings can be dangerous when they are at their best. Nevertheless the Rebels should emerge victors this Sunday as they have been more consistent.

Melbourne Rebels15 Nathan Trist, 14 Peter Playford, 13 James Lew, 12 Jack Farrer, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Dan Kelly, 9 Luke Burgess, 8 Dave Haigh, 7 David Croft (C), 6 Shawn Mackay, 5 Richard Stanford, 4 Matt Cockbain, 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Hanson, 1 Scott Cameron,
Replacements: 16 Nick Churven, 17 Josh Hately, 18 Liam Shaw, 19 David Haydon, 20 Jon McGrath, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 Damon Murphy

Canberra Vikings15 Tim Wright, 14 Eddie McLaughlin, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Tim Cornforth, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Patrick Phibbs, 8 Jone Tawake, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jack Vanderglas, 5 Peter Kimlin, 4 Alister Campbell (c), 3 Jack Kennedy, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Dan Raymond,
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 John Ulugia, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Dan Guinness, 20 Nick Haydon, 21 Rowan Kellam, 22 Ben Johnston, 23 Solomon Fainifo

Referee: James Leckie
Touch judges: Paul McKay, Daniel Kershaw
Television match official: Pat Rae
365 Digital

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