Even before the Rebels’ final minute win over the Force earlier in the day, the Reds’ clash with the Brumbies was, on paper, meaningless. The Brumbies were guaranteed the week off having finished clear enough on top of the ladder, whilst the Reds 2nd place spot could not be usurped.
Beyond paper, however, there was plenty to play for. For the very reason that the two teams are expected to play off again in two weeks time in the Grand Final. For the very reason that the last time these teams met it was an epic encounter, culminating in a win to the Brumbies on the back of a (controversial) last minute penalty kick from Bailey Kuenzle. For the very reason that the Reds had a point to prove on their back of their clash way back in January when they let a 10-point half time lead slip for yet another loss to the team from Canberra.
In short, this game had plenty to play for – and it delivered.
Both teams looked sharp early and tried their hand at taking their attack wide. For the Brumbies, their first attempt was stymied by a Fraser McReight pilfer penalty giving the home team some strong early territory and ball.
It was territory that led to points as Jock Campbell sliced through the Brumbies defence and offloaded a backhanded pass to put his captain Liam Wright away to open the scoring. Reds 5-0.
Ever the composed outfit, the Brumbies refused to let the early score affect them and continued to attack. An opportunity came with a smart backline move from a lineout, with Andy Muirhead unable to grab a well weighted kick into goal.
The Reds would not let such an opportunity to claim points slip by and took a rare penalty shot when given the chance soon after. Reds 8-0.
The moment many were waiting for came soon after as a Tom Banks kick for touch, following a penalty, gave the Brumbies their first chance to use their rolling maul. The Reds defused it masterly however a Nic White snipe saw him almost over the line. His opposite number, Tate McDermott, along with Harry Hoopert were able to hold him up and the pressure was relieved again.
McDermott was again saving tries soon after as some sharp interchanging between Will Miller, Darcy Swain and White had Tevita Kuridrani away and clear for a certain try. McDermott’s last-ditch tackle and, in fairness, some average ball control saw the Brumbies 13 drop the ball over the line.
Once again, the Reds opted for points on reaching the Brumbies’ quarter and winning another penalty. With their attack looking dangerous, Wright would have been tempted to look for another seven with ten minutes to go in the half, but the shot at goal was a sound decision. Reds 11-0
The further the half went, the more frustrated it seemed the Brumbies got. If anything, they lost a bit of their mojo with the passes not sticking and the backs running towards the sideline rather than the try line.
It was another failed backline play, and an Irae Simone drop, that granted the Reds a scrum in perfect attacking position. O’Connor brought it right and a lovely catch and pass by Stewart gave Campbell enough space to put Chris Feauai-Sautia away for important try in the shadows of half time. Reds 18-0
The Brumbies would not allow the home team to have it all their own way, though. The Reds with the heads seemingly already in the change rooms, were found short as the Brumbies found space down Feauai-Sautia’s wing with Tom Wright unloading to Pete Samu to charge over almost unopposed. Reds 18-7
The Brumbies started the half with Len Ikitau on for Simone but also a lot sharper and straighter in attack. It was only back to back Liam Wright pilfers that prevented any early point scoring.
While both teams were playing with good intent it was their coaches, more specifically Brad Thorn, who reminded us the status of the match. He rang the changes with 30 minutes to go bringing on Moses Sororvi (for Feauai-Sautia with McDermott going to the wing), Josh Nasser, Tuaina Taii Tualima and Ruan Smith. With Hunter Paisami coming on for a ginger Petaia as well, the depth of the Reds bench would soon be tested.
Queensland were successful in defusing another Brumby driving maul and then held out for repeated phases of attack before Swain knocked on veritably over the line. It was symbolic of the first quarter of the 2nd half as neither team were able to maintain possession long enough to really threaten the line. It was not until O’Connor kicked a penalty after a Will Miller foul that the scoreboard clicked over again. Reds 21-7
It was all Brumbies in the second half, at least in terms of territory. The attack was still disjointed and helped by an average home team kicking game. If it wasn’t Reds forwards turning over the ball, it was the Brumbies spilling it themselves.
Another defused lineout maul gave the Reds a rare chance to spend some time in the Brumbies half. A rather harmless kick by Bryce Hegarty was spilled by the previously impressive Bailey Kuenzle allowing ‘wonder-winger’ McDermott a shot to regather and race away for another try. Reds 26-7
The match ended, fittingly, with McReight grabbing another pilfer and Campbell booting the ball into touch. The Brumbies left plenty of points on the field, and you could make an argument that the score flattered the Reds. But that would discount their composed and precise rugby, most notably in the first half.
Another Suncorp win for the Reds over the Brumbies would stretch their undefeated run there to five years. Ironically their last loss to the Brumbies was back in 2015 with a young Tom Banks making his Super Rugby debut, for the Reds.
The Game Changer
Pete Samu’s pre-half time try, combined with a more clinical start to the 2nd stanza, should have seen the Brumbies build some key momentum. But any opportunity to was nullified by two back to back pilfers by Liam Wright. Stopping any early points was critical to the end result.
The G&GR MOTM
Liam Wright won the official Man of the Match award, the Frank Ivory Medal awarded to the Reds player of the match in their Indigenous round, and I can’t go past him either. He was exceptional both on and with the ball and as the impressive leader he has become.
Plenty of match ups here across the park. McDermott perhaps edged White but both were classy. Campbell bettered Banks in the first half but the Brumby was better in the 2nd. Wilson and Samu both had their moments. Elsewhere Tupou, Stewart and Petaia all had the better of their opposite number and Wallaby contender.
Tries: Liam Wright 7’, Chris Feauai-Sautia 27’, Tate McDermott 76’
Conv.: James O’Connor 38’
Pen.: James O’Connor 18’, 31’, 65’
Tries: Pete Samu 40’
Conv.: Bailey Kuenzle 41’
9,922 (highest Suncorp post covid)