The Brumbies smashed the Reds 52-13 in Brisbane to remain in the Super 14 play-off race.
The win, which comes off the back of a hammering by the Hurricanes, keeps the Brumbies in contention and maintains pressure on those above them to keep winning.
The Reds haven’t beaten the Brumbies since 1999 and never at any stage looked like breaking that drought.
As impressive as the Reds were last week, so were they awful at the Suncorp. In the seven-day turnaround they seemed to have forgotten that you have to earn the right to play expansively. Their approach was a flawed one – no discernible pattern or plan despite plenty of enthusiasm. Awfully rudderless these Reds were.
The fact that Berrick Barnes injured himself in the warm-up robbed the Reds of their backline general, and his absence had a telling impact on the Reds from an attacking and defensive perspective. But that alone cannot explain their dramatic regression in a week.
In contrast, the Brumbies were typically structured, dominating the set phases and relying on pounding phase play to break down the Reds’ defensive line. They played smart, refusing to gamble in their half and kicking well for territory throughout the match.
Despite looking vulnerable with every Brumbies attack, the hosts resisted bravely for 23 minutes, scrambling desperately in defence until they were breached by Gene Fairbanks, who rounded off a move that saw the Brumbies deplete the Reds’ defensive line through eight phases.
Twelve minutes later they extended their lead through Peter Kimlin. The Brumbies had attempted the inside pass off their first receiver often in the early exchanges and they finally profited from the tactic when Mitchell Chapman bust through into the 22 and offloaded to Kimlin, who was left with a clear run in on goal. Mortlock slotted the extras on both tries to add to an earlier penalty, giving his side a commanding 24-3 lead.
Reds scrumhalf Will Genia stirred hope of a comeback with tries either side of the break, pulling the Reds back to within nine.
However, those tries can be attributed almost entirely to defensive lapses and the fact that the Brumbies proceeded to batter the Reds thereafter bore testament to their superiority.
Prop Ben Alexander was outstanding throughout the contest, the highlight of his match being a powerful leg drive that saw him carry three Reds across the tryline. The bonus-point score came as a result of a midfield turnover. George Smith nudged through a grubber which the Reds made a mess of on their 5m line. The ball was eventually recovered by the Brumbies who shovelled it wide to Adam Ashley-Cooper for the crucial bonus-point score.
The Reds’ misery was compounded with two late scores, the first to Hoiles who finished a move that featured some scrappy build-up play, and the second a superb solo effort from Francis Fainifo, who broke from halfway and blitzed a scattered defensive line to bring up the half century.
The Brumbies have to beat the Blues in Canberra and Chiefs in Hamilton over the next fortnight and hope that other results favour them if they are to sneak into the semis. A replication of this performance will see them do their part. It remains to be seen whether the ruby gods smile on them thereafter.
By Ryan Vrede