JON CARDINELLI says a determined forward showing provided the platform for a shock 22-14 Brumbies victory in Brisbane.
The visitors dominated the collisions from the outset, and displayed an organisation and intensity on defence that limited the Reds’ options. The Brumbies’ superior performance at the breakdown would have further substantiated the theory that if you bully the Reds’ forwards, you nullify their dangerous halfbacks.
Will Genia and Quade Cooper had very little front foot ball to work with, and were often forced to take the wrong options. Cooper’s execution was not always consistent, and Genia was also guilty of occasionally kicking possession away when keeping it was the smarter alternative.
But this indecision was in large part the result of some brilliant Brumbies defence. There were no gaps in the initial stages, and through Matt Giteau the Brumbies were clinical in converting turnovers into points. Stephen Moore also bulldozed over for an important try, and as the break approached, the Brumbies held a handy 13-point lead.
The Reds would have been better served kicking their early penalties than pushing for the try. Twice captain James Horwill instructed Cooper to put the penalty into touch, and twice that decision proved flawed as the Reds squandered possession.
They enjoyed some success when Digby Ioane carried the ball to the advantage line, and some quick ball resulted in a try for Ben Lucas. It was an important strike right before half-time, and even though Cooper missed the ensuing conversion, they’d clawed themselves back into the game.
The Brumbies maintained the pressure into the second stanza, and the Reds’ poor handling cost them in promising positions. Their lineout also failed to secure the ball as Saia Faingaa was blown for a skew feed on two separate occasions.
Cooper nailed a long range penalty to bring the Reds within five points of the visitors. They managed to lift their intensity as the final whistle approached, but the Brumbies’ defence was unrelenting.
A final infringement allowed the Brumbies a shot at goal, and the successful Giteau penalty meant the Reds were denied a losing bonus point.
The result marks an end to the Reds’ 12-match winning streak in Brisbane. To make matters worse, they lost Ioane in the 47th minute when he copped a blow to the jaw, and Genia limped off in the final five minutes. If these injuries preclude Ioane and Genia from the play-offs, the Reds will struggle to implement their game plan.
The Waratahs’ loss on Friday means the Reds are in an unassailable position at the top of the Australian conference, but they still have some work to do if they’re going to nail down a home play-off spot.