Rarely has the opening game of a season excited the supporters as much as this Brumbies vs Reds game has. Reds fans were flocking to Canberra to watch their team reassert their dominance of the Australian conference, while Brumbies supporters were not-so-quietly talking their sides chances up.
Could the Reds climb to the top of the Super Rugby ladder again? Could the Brumbies improve and make the finals?
The Brumbies have started the year with a two-try win in Canberra, defeating the Queensland Reds 24-6.
From the opening moments it was clear that both teams wanted this one badly. To say the breakdown contest was willing is the understatement of the year.
The Reds scored first from a long range penalty shot from a ruck infringement. This started a theme for the night with about 19 of the 21 penalties in the game awarded for ruck infringements. It could be the ref or the player or both but it’s didn’t help the spectacle.
Jesse Mogg scored next off a pretty chip from White after the Brumbies moved down to the Reds’ half off another ruck penalty.
The sides traded huge hits in the ruck, shots at goal and niggle for the rest of the half.
The second half saw the niggle settle down but the penalty shots and work at the ruck continued. The Brumbies were the first, and perhaps only, side to adapt to the referee and it started to show as the steady stream of penalty shots pushed the lead out beyond 7 points.
The Reds, sensing the game was slipping away, started to run the ball from everywhere in the final quarter. But a combination of dropped ball, isolated players and just plan old defence from the Brumbies saw the Reds come away with nothing despite making serious metreage with the ball in hand. The Brumbies simply kicked the ball deep into the Reds’ half, forcing the Queenslanders to run it back at them.
Late in the second half Mogg scored his second try from an intercepted Quade Cooper pass as the Reds desperately tried one last attempt to salvage a point from the match.
A well-deserved win from the Canberra side who had the better of the scrum battle and finished slightly on top at ruck and mauls. Neither backline was given any room to operate but few rugby fans would walk away disappointed from this game.
The Game Changer
About 65 minutes into the game the Reds had moved the ball from their own 22 into the Brumbies’ 22 with a series of good runs from both backs and forwards. The Reds had set up a ruck on the 22 metre line and were shooting forwards off the side with a series of pick and drives. David Pocock calmly sits back and calmly picks his moment to attack the ball and wins a legitimate ruck penalty for his team snuff out Queensland’s best passage of play.
A special mention for referee Andrew Lees who snuffed out many passages of play from both teams for the vaguest reasons.
The G&GR MoM
In a game where no one played badly it’s hard to pick one player above the others. Jesse Mogg scored two tries, kicked two goals, kicked well in general play and was safe in defence. He is this game’s Man of the Match.
Quade Cooper was quiet but slowly worked his way into the game as the match wore on. Lealiifano, while also quiet, would also be pretty happy with his return to Super Rugby. Clyde Rathbone justified his place in the starting lineup and could play his way into Wallabies contention later in the year.
The Brumbies: J. Mogg (2 tries, 2 penalties), N. White (2 penalties), R. Coleman (1 conversion)
The Reds: M. Harris (2 penalties)
Referee: Andrew Lees
Sideline Officials: James Leckie, Ian Smith
Video Referee: Matt Goddard