Pacific Island Round was always going to make for a massive final weekend of the Buildcorp NRC, but then we realised that three of the four games will have a bearing on the finals series, with six teams still able to make the top four.
It's time to get the calculator out and start doing the sums.
Here are the equations for the six teams still in contention.
1st - NSW Country Eagles: 24 competition points; five wins, one loss
The Eagles cannot finish lower than second, and a win over the Western Sydney Rams with a bonus point on Saturday will see them finish first and claim hosting rights for the 2016 Finals series.
As an aside, a win over the Rams would also see them crowned the 2016 holders of the Horan-Little Shield, joining Brisbane City (2015) and Melbourne Rising (2014) as previous holders.
2nd – Sydney Rays: 23 points; five wins, one loss
The Rays can finish first on the table, if:
- They beat Melbourne on Sunday, AND
- NSW Country lose to Western Sydney the day before.
-A win over Melbourne will ensure they host a semi-final the following weekend.
However, the Rays could yet snatch top spot even if NSW Country beat the Rams. The Rays could still claim 1.
- NSW Country beat Western Sydney but without a bonus point (to finish on 28 points), AND
- The Rays then beat Melbourne with a bonus point (to also finish on 28 points) AND by a margin big enough to put them in front of the Eagles on for-and-against. Currently the difference between the Eagles and Rays is 8 differential points, but a Country win over the Rams would increase this.
3rd – Perth Spirit: 18 points; four wins, two losses
The Spirit could just sneak into second place, if:
- They beat Uni of Canberra Vikings on Saturday with a bonus point AND a winning margin of 45 points or more, AND
- Sydney Rays lose to Melbourne on Sunday with no losing bonus point.
A win over Canberra by any margin will lock in a top four finish.
Being five competition points behind already, Perth need to win big in order to finish with a better points differential that the Rays – on the assumption that the Rays take no points out of their game in Melbourne.
It’s hard to know what’s more unlikely about the Perth equation: Canberra losing a second consecutive match by more than forty, or the Rays taking no points out of their game in Melbourne.
Should Melbourne beat the Rays, Perth could also stay in the four if:
- They take a losing point out of a loss to Canberra, OR
- They lose to Canberra without a bonus point by fewer than 51 points.
4th – Melbourne Rising: 15 points; three wins, three losses
The Rising can’t finish any higher than third, but can only do that if:
- Perth lose to Canberra on Saturday, AND
- The Rising beat Sydney Rays on Sunday.
Regardless of what Perth do on Saturday, the Rising will secure a top four finish with a win.
Melbourne can also hold onto fourth spot if Perth beat Canberra, and if the Rising lose to the Rays.
If Canberra lose with a bonus point, Melbourne would still hold a points differential advantage.
5th – Uni of Canberra Vikings: 14 points; three wins, three losses
The sweating on other results takes hold now, and it starts with the Vikings who cannot make the top four with anything less than a win over Perth on Saturday.
The Vikings can finish fourth if:
- They beat Perth on Saturday, AND
- Sydney beat Melbourne on Sunday
Interestingly, third place is not out of their reach, but that would involve getting ahead of Perth by either a bonus point or superior points differential. Currently, that margin is 50 points in Perth’s favour, and regardless, would still require the Rays to beat Melbourne.
6th – Western Sydney Rams: 12 points; two wins, four losses
Now it really starts getting tricky, because there are several routes this can happen, although central to any of these route is one unequivocal foundation:
- The Rams must beat NSW Country on Saturday.
If they can beat Country, then bonus points enter the equation and the abacus starts straining.
If the Rams win with a bonus point, they can finish fourth if:
- Perth beat Canberra, AND
- Sydney beat Melbourne.
If the Rams beat Country without a bonus point, they can still finish fourth if:
- Perth beat Canberra, AND
- Sydney beat Melbourne, and with Melbourne not gaining a losing bonus point
If the Rams beat Country with or without a bonus point, and either Canberra or Melbourne win, then the Rams would miss the top four.
Also, a win over Country would also see Western Sydney crowned the 2016 Horan-Little Shield holders.
It’s enough to give you a headache, but what a huge final weekend of Buildcorp NRC rugby we’ve got coming up!
NRC ROUND 7 FIXTURE
Saturday October 8, 1pm AEDT - Western Sydney Rams vs NSW Country Eagles
Saturday October 8, 3pm AEDT - UC Vikings vs Perth Spirit
Sunday October 9, 1pm AEDT - Melbourne Rising vs Sydney Rays
Sunday October 9, 3pm AEDT - Brisbane City vs Queensland Country