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The penultimate round of the 2012 Queensland Premier Rugby competition has arrived with all five encounters on Saturday to impact on the remaining six teams still in finals contention.
The race for a place in the top four is enormously close with only six competition points currently separating first and fifth place heading into round 17, highlighting just how congested the top half of the competition is with only two regular season games remaining.
Competition leaders Brothers remain outright leaders on 58 competition points, just ahead of both University (57) and Easts (56), while Sunnybank and GPS are only marginally behind on 52 competition points.
An in-form Souths team also aren’t without hope and sit just one bonus-point victory or five competition points outside the top four, although will be requiring other results to go their way to qualify for the finals.
Of the remaining finals combatants, only two square off against one another in an exciting round of action on Saturday, with Easts and GPS clashing at David Wilson Field in the Game of the Round.
Adding to the excitement of this match is the importance it has for Easts in remaining in contention for a top two finish as the two teams above the Tigers, Brothers and University, face off against the competition’s two lowest ranked sides in the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast respectively.
Easts will lock up a place within the Premier Rugby Finals Series if they can overcome the Gallopers for a second time this year although a loss could ultimately see both GPS and Sunnybank surpass them on the ladder with dominant wins.
In their early season encounter the Tigers were narrow 22-18 victors over the Gallopers although GPS enter the match with momentum in their favour, having accumulated a century of points in the past fortnight, against the Gold Coast (50-16) and Sunshine Coast (50-7).
Easts on the other hand went down 14-10 to a resurgent Magpies team at the weekend although did record two impressive wins the two previous weekends, against Norths (30-10) and Wests (49-27).
The Tigers also face a tough final match to the regular season against University at St Lucia next Saturday while the Gallopers will tangle with Wests at Yoku Road.
Brothers have the easiest run home in the competition statistically as they face the ninth-placed Breakers at Albert Park this week before ending their regular season campaign against the Sunshine Coast Stingrays at Jack Ross Oval.
Despite their run home the Brethren won’t lack any motivation heading into the final rounds after they look to rebound from an uncharacteristically hefty loss at the weekend against Sunnybank 50-20.
They will also be buoyed this week by the inclusion of St.George Queensland Reds flyer Dom Shipperley, who enjoyed a stellar Super Rugby season, which included eight tries.
University will also ensure they continue to apply pressure for top spot and have a good opportunity to highlight their attacking prowess against the Gold Coast at the weekend, having already scored an impressive 12 bonus-points for scoring four or more tries in the 16 games played to date.
Similar to Brothers, University will also gain plenty from the Super Rugby experience of Reds hooker James Hanson, who has been a regular in the Red Heavies’ line-up during recent weeks.
Sunnybank however have benefited most from the injection of several Reds and Wallabies stars during the past month and will again be bolstered by the availability of prop Greg Holmes and centre Ben Tapuai.
The Dragons travel to Hugh Courtney Oval to play Norths on Saturday in what is shaping up to be a high-scoring affair with the Eagles averaging over 38 points scored in their past four matches as compared to an average of 36 points scored by Sunnybank.
In the final match of the round Souths will look to make it four straight wins when they go on the road to take on Wests at Sedgman Oval.
After Wallabies and Reds dynamo Quade Cooper helped Souths to dominate victories over the Gold Coast (50-27) and Sunshine Coast (58-6), the Magpies produced another stellar effort to beat Easts 14-10 at the weekend.
For Wests, they have dropped their past three matches after a dominant middle part of their campaign, although have repeatedly shown throughout the 2012 season that they are capable of beating any opponent on any given week.
Download the round 17 Queensland Premier Rugby program (in pdf format) at the following link: http://www.redsrugby.com.au/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=GjYn0-rcqvg%3d&tabid=533.
2012 Queensland Premier Rugby - Round 17 - Saturday 25 August
Easts v GPS
David Wilson Field 3:00pm
Norths v Sunnybank
Hugh Courtney Oval 4:20pm
Rugby Gold Coast v Brothers
Albert Park 3:00pm
Sunshine Coast v University
Stockland Sunshine Coast Stadium 3:00pm
Wests v Souths
Sedgman Oval 3:00pm
20 MAY 2013