JON CARDINELLI reports on a fiercely contested yet error-marred Aussie derby that was eventually won 13-12 by the Reds.
The game produced one try, but the word ‘dour’ wouldn’t do it justice. The game never wanted for action but unfortunately never developed into a spectacle nor offered the high level of execution you’d expect from a top of the conference encounter.
The error count on both sides was astronomically high, and at times the ill-discipline also stunted momentum. The game ended on an error when Brumbies flyhalf Zack Holmes missed a penalty attempt. The Reds celebrated wildly as Holmes’s shot drifted wide, but coach Ewen McKenzie will be more relieved than anything else after what was an erratic performance.
It was a result they should have secured moments before. The Reds were camped on the Brumbies’ tryline, and when the hosts attempted to clear, Holmes’s kick was charged down. The clock looked to be on the Reds’ side as the teams packed down for a scrum, but incredibly the Reds failed to secure the ball and Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White succeeded in hacking it 60m upfield.
The pressure on both sides was evident, and their tactics were befitting a match of this stature. However, neither McKenzie, Jake White, nor Wallabies coach Robbie Deans for that matter, would have been pleased with the errors at the set pieces, the poor ball security at the breakdown and the lack of physicality at the collisions.
Referee Steve Walsh threatened to take charge of the breakdown early in the game, but then allowed more of a contest as the match wore on. Ball-poaching specialists like Liam Gill and Michael Hooper were influential, and with both teams allowed to forage on the ground nether attack obtained the necessary momentum to score a try.
The only try of the game was scored by Reds fullback Luke Morahan, and it was the product of individual brilliance rather than a concerted team effort.
The Brumbies employed their incessant kick-chase tactics early on, and Morahan soared to collect a high bomb before surging upfield. A neat chip over the disorganised Brumbies defensive line rolled into the in-goal area, and Morahan showed his speed to beat all Brumbies chasers for the touchdown.
The rest of the game played out in a frustrating manner, as both teams niggled at each other and attempted to stifle each other’s attack. The scrums were a mess, but the Brumbies will most lament the number of skew feeds at the lineout. It robbed them of a great attacking platform and was yet another reason why their backs struggled to get into the game.
The win allows the Reds to stay in the hunt for a play-off place, while the losing bonus point sees the Brumbies maintaining a five-point buffer between their closest rivals in the Aussie conference.