The Reds and Brumbies have played out an absolute heart stopper in Canberra with the visitors coming out on top with a last minute 40-38 win following a Jordan Petaia try right at the death to snatch the win.
The Brumbies shot out to a 17-0 lead after just 15 minutes, but the Reds chipped away with James O’Connor pulling the strings to keep them in the hunt at half time before their scrum showed their dominance in the second half.
The loss of Tom Ross and Scott Sio for the Brumbies around the 60 minute mark saw the Reds finish with 24 points and come home with a wet sail to secure their first win in Canberra since 2014.
The Brumbies opened the scoring with a penalty goal after just two minutes to Noah Lolesio after the Reds defensive line was a bit eager to get off the line in their own half.
The Reds looked a little off their game early with a knock on from Jordan Petaia allowing the Brumbies good field position and followed by penalty advantages, the Brumbies went to the right wing and Andy Muirhead put Pete Samu away with only millimetres to spare on the touch line for the opening try after five minutes.
The Reds had a great chance to hit back from the restart but fluffed their lines and the ball was kicked downfield and the Reds were saved by a steaming Suliasi Vunivalu. But the resulting five metre scrum saw the Brumbies camped on the Reds line and while the Reds were initially able to halt the rolling maul, they couldn’t stop the returning Folau Fainga’a from scoring from close range. Lolesio’s conversion made it 17-0 after 14 minutes.
The Reds were able to benefit from the next restart after the Brumbies knocked on and then gave away a penalty to give James O’Connor the chance to get his side on the board and regain their composure after a shaky start. That gave the Reds the lift they needed, and O’Connor added a second penalty six minutes later as the Brumbies started to infringe and gain the attention of referee Nic Berry.
Vunivalu had a mixed opening half but made up for a knock on in his own 22 to finish off a nice Reds move down the right wing with O’Connor linking up with Harry Wilson to send Vunivalu away. Jock Campbell’s elusive kick return set up the passage to make it 13 points in as many minutes for the visitors.
O’Connor then undid his good work with a knock on at the back and from the scrum, Pete Samu worked it close and a few phases later Nic White floated a wide pass to Samu on the left wing for his second try of the night.
After a slow start the Reds reduced the margin to eight points with O’Connor’s third penalty just before the break to make it 24-16 and end the point a minute opening half.
The Brumbies started the second half in the Reds half but some impressive defence by the Reds on their own line saw them repel the Brumbies initially. But like in the first half, the pressure was too much for the Reds second time around from the lineout and Fainga’a joined Samu as a double try scorer.
But with the lead at 31-16, there would have been a few nervous Brumbies fans as both starting props in Scott Sio and Tom Ross left the field injured to see Harry Lloyd and Archer Holz, on debut, as the props.
Straight away the Reds smelt blood and earned a crucial scrum penalty but O’Connor’s attempt hit the upright and from the resulting scrums where they were dominant, they turned it over from a penalty, where patience would have more than likely seen more points coming their way.
Eventually the Reds would get their try they had been working so hard for and it was the scrum that got them on top and it was Taniela Tupou from close range proving too much for the Brumbies defence to stop and O’Connor’s conversion made it an eight-point margin again with less than 20 minutes to go.
The Reds started to get the momentum going their way and again it was the Reds scrum that had them on the Brumbies line, and it was Harry Wilson on the back of a dominant scrum to score and O’Connor’s conversion made it 31-30.
But somehow the Brumbies would pull something out of the fire under the pump and a bit of footwork from Len Ikitau saw a little bit of space for Issak Fines-Leleiwasa to slip through and score. Ryan Lonergan’s crucial conversion made it back to eight points.
And there would be late, late drama as O’Connor added a penalty and then Seru Uru found acres of space from the restart to have the Brumbies back pedalling under pressure. A grubber from Hunter Paisami saw Jordan Petaia evade the goalposts and Brumbies defenders to score and give the Reds the lead for the first time in the game with only 70 seconds remaining and after O’Connor’s conversion they would hang on for a tense 40-38 win with Tupou having the final say as he kicked the ball into touch.
The Game Changer
In the second half, both Brumbies props left the field injured and from there, the Reds took control to score 24 points and finish off the game.
The G&GR MOTM
James O’Connor for the Reds showed his game smarts by taking the penalty with five minutes to go to give his side a chance to make it 20 points for the game and his side up trumps with the late Petaia try.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Samu 2, Fainga’a 2, Fines-Leleiwasa
Conversions: Lolesio 4, R Lonergan
Tries: Vunivalu, Tupou, Wilson, Petaia
Conversions: O’Connor 4
Penalties: O’Connor 4