NRC: Grand final returns to night

by Montanna Clare

The NRC is set to return to a night grand final this season, with the title decider to follow the third Bledisloe Cup match.

Kicking off  at 7:45pm AEDT, the second night final in three NRC seasons, the October 22 match will be broadcast live on Fox Sports off the back of the Auckland Bledisloe Cup Test.

Brisbane City won the title on a Sunday afternoon last year. Photo: Getty ImagesThe inaugural NRC grand final was played at night, with Brisbane City besting Perth Spirit, before a Sunday afternoon timeslot was preferred last season.

This will be the first season the last NRC match has been played outside of Queensland, with the two-time defending champion City side out of semi-final contention.

As for where the NRC grand final will be played, in just three weekends’ time, that’s anyone’s guess.

The location of the grand final is yet to be decided, with the final regular round to decide the NRC pecking order, but there are still six teams in contention for the top four.

The NSW Country Eagles are guaranteed finals hosting duties. Photo: SuppliedThe NSW Country Eagles and Sydney Rays are leading the pack, with 24 points and 23 points respectively, with semi-final hosting duties all but locked in.

Just six points separates third and sixth, with Perth Spirit, Melbourne Rising, UC Vikings and the Western Sydney Rams all in contention for the last two spots in the top four.

This weekend’s final round match between Perth Spirit and UC Vikings who play in Canberra on Saturday at 3pm looms as the most pivotal in shaping the finalists..

A win to the UC Vikings would see them close the gap on the Spirit and potentially propel them to the finals.

The Spirit will have a major say on the finals makeup. Photo: SuppliedThe Rams took until round five to notch their first 2016 win, but if two consecutive victories can become three, they could also be a dark horse for the semis,  though a few dominoes would have to fall for that to happen.

If the Rams topple the ladder-leading Eagles, they will need the Spirit to beat the Vikings and the Sydney Rays to defeat the Melbourne Rising in Melbourne to crack the top four.

The only matchup that has no effect on the top four is the Ballymore derby between Queensland Country and Brisbane City, though that will determine who takes the wooden spoon for the 2016 season.

The NRC grand final will kick off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS.