Brumbies hold on for close win over the Reds - Green and Gold Rugby
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Brumbies hold on for close win over the Reds

Brumbies hold on for close win over the Reds

The Brumbies and Reds kicked off their 2020 campaigns in 39 degree heat but it was the Brumbies who came out on top with a tough 27-24 win in Canberra.

It was certainly a game of two halves with momentum swings going both ways as the Brumbies took the early advantage before the Reds got back into the game with 17 unanswered points to lead by ten at the break.

But the second half was where it was won for the Brumbies with three tries to Tom Wright, Folau Fainga’a and Tom Banks with a late penalty to Noah Lolesio enough for a close win despite a late Harry Wilson try for the Reds.

The Match

The Brumbies started off the match with some physicality that seemed to catch the Reds on the back foot and they were not helped by some errant passes out the back to put Isaac Lucas under pressure.

That physicality saw the Brumbies with back to back penalties in good field position and at the second go from close range, they had the opening try after just four minutes to centre Irae Simone.

The Reds were lucky not to go further behind after Tom Wright was penalised for not releasing the ball and having another go at the tryline after earlier making a nice break and linking up with Tevita Kuridrani down the left wing.

New captain Liam Wright earnt a crucial penalty ten metres out from his own line after getting over the ball on a Solomone Kata run, who had looked handy with his early touches and this seemed to jolt the Reds into action.

They slowly got back into the game with Jordan Petaia starting to get his hands on the ball and running good lines with James O’Connor getting in to first receiver and their scrum was getting the upper hand on their opponents.

The Brumbies conceded a series of penalties in their own end and it was former Brumby Henry Speight who got the Reds on the board after 18 minutes with a move that looked very familiar to Brumbies fans and Bryce Hegarty’s conversion levelled the scores.

It was again the Reds set piece that got on top of the Brumbies and it gave Hegarty a simple shot at penalty goal and a 10-7 lead after 25 minutes

The Reds tactics at lineout were causing problems for the Brumbies as they contested very well to leave the Brumbies with disrupted ball and not allow them to get any rhythm from first phase.

It was their forwards that got them further in front just before the break after 15 phases in tight, the backs got in on the action and Hegarty extended their lead to 17-7 after converting his own try.

Embed from Getty Images

The Brumbies looked to have the yips early in the second half, like the Reds in the opening ten but a timely counter ruck from Solomone Kata was just what they needed and after spreading the ball wide, Tom Wright found his way through contact and flirted with the side line to score in the left corner and reduce the Reds lead to five points.

That margin was reduced just before the 60-minute mark as the Reds gave away a penalty in their own half and the Brumbies went to what they know best with a rolling maul off the lineout with Folau Fainga’a scoring at the back.

The Reds did well to halt the Brumbies momentum with some key turnovers but with just over ten minutes remaining Tom Banks shredded his way through the Reds defence to finish off a try he started after pressuring Isaac Lucas into a poor clearance to give the Brumbies good field position.

Noah Lolesio kicked a penalty goal to make the lead 10 but the Reds hit back with a converted try to debutant Harry Wilson with four minutes to go to ensure a close finish but a knock on from Moses Sorovi after the bell ended any chance of snatching a late winner.

Key Moment

Brumbies second half – The Brumbies trailed by 10 points at half time but came out firing with three tries and a late penalty and hold on for the win.


Even though he came out on the losing team, Liam Wright gets the nod in a blanket finish. He didn’t look out of place with the captaincy and won his side a number of crucial turnovers in key spots to get his side out of trouble. Honourable mention to Tom Banks for his try that got the Brumbies the lead and didn’t look troubled at the back.

Wallaby Watch

With an Aussie derby there was plenty to see with the front row matchup a real battle with the Brumbies Wallabies contingent of Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a, Allan Alaalatoa and James Slipper not having it their own way against a pack lead by Taniela Tupou.
You can see why Liam Wright has been marked as a long term Wallaby in the back row with a solid game and Harry Wilson showed what he can do and will only get better with experience.
The midfield combination of James O’Connor and Jordan Petaia will only get better with more game time under their belt with Petaia up against Tevita Kuridrani who was solid without being spectacular.
Tom Banks put his World Cup squad omission behind him with a nice try that should give new coach Dave Rennie something to think about at fullback.

The Details

Score & Scorers

Tries: Simone, Wright, Fainga’a, Banks
Conversions: Lolesio 2
Penalties: Lolesio
Tries: Speight, Hegarty, Wilson
Conversions: Hegarty 3
Penalties: Hegarty



  • Bobas

    Exellent write up Steve L – 8/10.

    My take was the Brums played 50mins better and the Reds played 30mins better. I think the standard of Australian Rugby has been improved with this game.

    • Yes, that was pretty much my feeling too.

      I’d add to that, both coaches will be reasonably happy (unlike the Tahs coach, just finished watching that game). They were solid stretches of good play, with flashes elsewhere – I think you can build on the positives as well as work on what went wrong in both camps, which is a good place to be.

      The Tahs though, had flashes where they looked like they were playing well, but for large stretches it looked like men against boys. Not a good place to build from.

      • Bobas

        The rebels turned up at the end of the game, when they were 3 scores behind, but before that the Tahs were more impressive.

        • Not seen the rebels yet, their game against the Sundogs was on in the ungodly hours for me.

      • Howard

        The Tahs were playing the Crusaders away. Yes they got owned but I suspect the Reds and Ponies will too

        • I suspect you might be right. But I thought the Tahs looked bad. Not “beaten by a better team” bad, but “what the hell were they doing there” bad.

          Maybe it’s first game rust plus new coach plus playing the Crusaders and a bit of a perfect storm but I saw few positives for the coach to build on in that match.

    • Tim

      If you watch the final 20 minutes it was the reds 18 bench prop who let in the try and gave away the pen which costed them the game. It was a good game overall

  • Steve

    Thanks for the writeup Steve.

    The Reds looked really good I must say, the set piece and the loosies in general play look like good things are coming this year. They have a ton of improvement in them as well.

    Brumbies, glad they got the win and they still have threats across the park, as their tries showed. The loss of Arnold and Carter was the most noticeable thing, the scrum and lineout really suffering for much of the game.

    Lolesio really looked to find his feet over the course of the game and he has great potential.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Nice write up Steve, a close score that could have gone either way and really showed there’s not a lot between these teams. I think both teams have displayed some improvements with the youngsters really coming on. It’ll be interesting to see how the teams develop from here.
    JOC and Petaia looked good together and the Reds forwards in the set piece looked very good. Liam played well but the three loosies for the Brumbies worked better as a team and I think in a lot of ways this is where they won the game.

  • Brumby Runner

    Happy with the form of the Brumbies backrow, Joe Powell and Irae Simone. Thought Simone had a better game at 12 than JOC, even though JOC looked better towards the end of the game. Backrow will improve with the return of McCaffrey and/or Brown to complement Valetini and Samu. Powell had a more productive game than McDermott, even behind a losing scrum.

    Both Kata and Wright on the wings were good.

    Reds tight 5 got the better of the Brumbies, at least at set piece, but that’s not anything to worry about. The Reds will better most teams at scrum and lineout time.

    Not impressed that Keunzle didn’t get on. Noah probably finished ahead of Lucas which is no mean feat, but his goal kicking left a bit to be desired, and his general game management imo isn’t as good as BK.

    • Singapore Sling

      The reserve halfback for the ponies, Ryan Lonergan (I think) was very good. Agree re Simone v JOC, Simone is improving year on year.

      • Brumby Runner

        Simone is the real creative influence in the Brumbies backline. He is as often as not the first receiver in a backline play, which currently is taking a lot of pressure off Lolesio at 10. Keunzle is a similarly creative player. I am waiting for him to get an opportunity to show what he has.

        Lonergan, I would rate as the No 3 half back in the Brumbies squad. That is not to denigrate him in anyway. But Joe Powell must at this stage be rated the best with Isaac Fines imo in second place. Fines, with his pace and ability to breal a defensive line would be sensational in that Brumbies backline.

  • Wonky Donkey

    Lolesio had a bit of tenacity and doggedness about him. I almost saw him in gold for a moment there.

  • Anthony

    Could be a tough start for the reds with South Africa and Argentina coming up. Not hard to see them go 0-3, making it pretty hard for a finals appearance

  • Patrick

    I believe that’s a neat record for Henry Speight: first player to score a try against every super rugby club!

  • Huw Tindall

    Brums win despite a dominant reds tight 5 says a lot IMO. Finding ways to get back into the game a more mature back line, despite a kid at 10, probably helped. Biggest thing for me was the Reds looked better without Kerevi. It’s strange saying that but when you have someone like him you tend to over rely on them like the Tahs did with Folau and Naiyaravoro. Without Kerevi the whole Reds back line looks improved with variety of play being able to get the ball out wide. Pity Daugunu was suspended as he has serious potential on the wing with this new reds back line.

  • Red Block

    I know it is not supposed to be used as an excuse but inexperience and a couple of brain farts really cost the Reds.
    Twice after turn overs Harry Wilson gave the ball straight back by throwing impossible passes. He will improve from here.
    Isaac Lucas and Bryce Hegarty both kicked poorly from the hand. What was with the 10 metre kicks to touch? So when the Brumbies were piling the pressure on, the Reds became trapped in their own end and the Brumbies pounced. The Brumbies have struggled to score long range tries in recent years, this is the key to beating them.
    As for JOCs chip kick with 90 seconds left, he needs to find a big mirror.
    Also, I’m not sure how Faingaa’s try escaped scrutiny. There was clearly a player running obstruction in front of him who impeded McDermott.
    Lastly, the Reds reserve props look overweight and lacking condition.

    • Singapore Sling

      Fainga’a and Slipper peeled off the back (apparently). Looked dodgy.

      • Brumby Runner

        To me it has an element of truck and trailer, but most refs seem to call “same maul” and let it continue.

        • John Tynan

          I definitely yelled out truck and trailer!

    • Who?

      The size of Lucas’ boot was something Nick Bishop raised in his article a week ago… He pointed out that Isaac looked to pass to Harrison (who has a much bigger boot) whenever he needed a long clearing kick…

      • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

        Larkham did the same. He he didn’t usually handle the exiting himself.

        • Who?

          He had Latham and blokes like that behind him. So it wasn’t that he was terrible, it’s that there were better options. When he chose to kick, he had a good boot (just not a great boot). But that’s not Lucas’ situation……… Not for the Reds.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          It improved in later years but it was never particularly strong, even at the Brumbies. Agree it was better than a Lucas/Foley pop gun. He was often feeding Roff or Gits to clear.

          Wouldn’t be surprised to see Harrison at 10 and Lolesio at 12 outside of him in a few years. That’s two plays with strong boots.

  • Mortahs aka custard taht

    Good start to the season for both teams. This will be a make or break season for Thorn, he should be in a finals or bust scenario.

  • idiot savant

    Hats off to the Brumbies. More mature, more experienced, better coached. The Brums have the best coaching group in Australia. This was most evident at the breakdown. The Brums clean out was faster and more accurate so they had cleaner quicker ball and their forwards were far better at dirtying up the Reds ball. While the Reds back 3 played well, particularly in attack, the Brums back 3 ruck work was important to the result. Please can we have Laurie as Wallabies breakdown coach?

    The other area where the Brums dominated was line speed defence. They were prepared to give away the odd offside penalty to ensure they were up in the reds faces all the time. McKellar won the game plan battle – high line speed defence and creating dirty ball was the effective way to beat the Reds. On the other side I like Thorn’s forward offloading plan but remain unconvinced by McKay’s backline selections and plans. The outside backs saw no quick ball so never worked with space. A clear victory to the Brums coaches for me.

    Would the Reds have won that game if Hegarty had played 10? It is clear that Lucas greatest gift is as a runner. His kicking is ordinary and about 10 metres short of ideal (which makes him less attractive as a 15). He times his passes well but has no long pass. He is also encouraged to run before passing which means his outside backs will have less space if he decides to pass. If it wasn’t for JOC’s great skill in passing under pressure this problem would have been more obvious. I guess thats what happens when you have a Randwick running rugby devotee as your backs coach. Clearly the inside backs of the Reds are a work in progress but I fear the strike power out wide will never have enough time and space with Lucas at 10. And opposition coaches will have made notes. Expect line speed and dirty ball to be employed against the Reds going forward.

    • Brumby Runner

      Good summary IS. I am inclined to believe it wouldn’t have made a lot of difference had Hegarty been at 10 and Lucas at 15. Hegarty did play first receiver at times and Lucas was sometimes the last line of defense – see Tom Bank’s try for example.

      Of the young 10s, I would rate Harrison best, followed by Lolesio, then Lucas and Keunzle didn’t get a start. Harrison looked more assured and his experience from last year showed. Lolesio has good skills but not the finesse yet to control a game the way we would like to see from a seasoned No 10. I think that’s where Keunzle has it over Lolesio atm but he needs game time to show what he can do.

      • idiot savant

        Agree BR. Harrison wins hands down. He’s a genuine 10 with great skills. Best first game I’ve seen for a long time. And against the best provincial side in the world. Harrison is a gun. He’s miles ahead of Lucas in terms of the role of a 10.

        Lolesio is probably a better runner than Harrison and will be a handful at times but Im not sure he will be the general that Harrison is. I also like Bailey but like Stewart those types of selfless pivots are no longer in vogue. Both would ensure the outride backs had more opportunities.

        • Brumby Runner

          Just have to look at Pollard for the Bokke to see the value of selfless play at No 10. Bayley looks a lot like him in my eyes.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Smart money at the present moment is on Harrison to end up the best of the young 10s. But this round Lolesio was the best I think. Hard to be the best 10 when your team is smacked around and concedes nearly 50 points.

          With his big boot and game management Harrison may well end up the most rounder 10. That said, Larkham was never a rounded 10 and was probably not even as rounded as Flatley, but he was one of best ever 10. So all three are certainly in the race.

        • idiot savant

          Lolesio has the advantage in that he will play behind a pack that gives him the best platform of Oz sides particularly in phase play. Also the Reds dont have a rush defence so it will be interesting t see how he goes against that. He appears to have a good head on his shoulders. And if Toomua keeps playing like he did yesterday Lolesio certainly is a chance to see gold.

        • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

          Did you see the Brumbies pack on Friday? Neither the scrum nor the line out will be anywhere near what it was previously now that Arnold and Carter have gone. Add to that our front row injuries.

          At this stage smart money is on Toomua and then Harrison second. But I’d back Lolesio to improve a lot by next year.

        • idiot savant

          Yes I did see the set piece problems. It was a big factor in the Reds getting back into the game. However set piece platform wasn’t that much of an issue otherwise the Brumbies wouldn’t have won. Its the ruck platform that really matters, especially for a five eight. The Brums forwards continually served up better ruck ball than the Reds had. The Brums forwards timed their ruck shoves when McDermott reached for the ball so he often had to back off and wait. They’re the little things the Canberra coaches have instilled into their pack. And Id back the Brums to improve their set piece from here.

  • Jack Hefren

    Not sure Thorn would be really happy with his decision to replace the Reds front row just as they were making the Brumbies front row put their heads up into some very dark places. Following on from that Lord Laurie needs to find a lot more muscle from the second row or they can consider their season over already

  • Howard

    I had Wright in my Fantasy team and my opponent had Hooper. I got smashed because Hooper had more turnovers (3 to 4) 17 meters gained to 0 and more runs and tackles
    The only stat that Wright was tackles missed and his points were almost doubled by my opponent

  • John Tynan

    Thanks Steve.
    I thought the Brumbies won the game with their breakdown work – they were excellent at offensive and defensive breakdowns and cleaning out was accurate, timely and highly effective.
    Although not my domain, Isaac Lucas not a 5/8??? But probably training really well. Kafer’s comments about his ability to pass while pointing forward were a good description of what I couldn’t explain beyond f@#$-in backs – he is the most telegraphic player I’ve seen for a while.

  • Nutta

    Hello Cobbers

    I’ll 2nd Bobas and not to Steve on a quality write-up.

    For a few years now the Donkeys spine has been their set-piece so it was interesting that the Reds took them on directly there and yet still couldn’t come up with a win. I really felt sorry for the Reds in that the game plan to disrupt the Donkeys key strengths was clear and largely worked… but it wasn’t enough.

    Random thoughts:
    * BigT owned Scott Sio more often than not.
    * Liam Wright – 2 fantastic steals at critical moments.
    * The Donkeys 10(?) has some class.
    * I expected more of JOC & Pets but didn’t get it.
    * Great to see Speights try. A little balance to the universe there.

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