Brumbies are Aussie champions ... again
SUPER RUGBY AU REPORT: The Brumbies held off a powerful second-half surge by the Reds to be crowned Australia’s champions.
The Brumbies outscored the Reds by three tries to two for a 28-23 win in Canberra on Saturday.
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The Brumbies secured bragging rights for another year, with tries to fullback Tom Banks, wing Andy Muirhead, hooker Folau Fainga’a and a 13-point goal-kicking haul from flyhalf Noah Lolesio.
It wasn’t the silverware they set out for before COVID-19 shutdown Super Rugby proper in March, but it was nevertheless the Brumbies’ first championship since 2004.
Coach Dan McKellar could be excused for expecting the Brumbies to be rewarded with a healthy representation in the Wallabies side for next month’s two Bledisloe Cup battles with the All Blacks in New Zealand.
The Brumbies had been Australia’s Super Rugby conference champions in three of the past four years before dominating the 10-round domestic series in 2020.
Queensland had hoped to assert their superiority at scrum time, and they did early, as the two sides traded penalty goals in the opening 15 minutes.
But it was the Brumbies who bagged the first try of the night through another familiar set-piece source – their deadly driving maul.
Fainga’a was once again the beneficiary.
When a jinking Lolesio, recalled in somewhat of a final gamble after two months out injured, combined with Muirhead for the Brumbies’ second try and a 15-3 lead, the Reds – without a win in Canberra for six years – could have dropped their heads.
Instead, teenage sensation Jordan Petaia sparked a fightback with a weaving 30-metre run and flick pass to put Reds No.8 Harry Wilson over next to the posts.
James O’Connor’s conversion and second penalty goal after the half-time siren left the visitors trailing by only two points at the break.
In a blow, though, Petaia failed to emerge for the second half, a leg injury rubbing the winger out of the game.
Worse was to follow for the Reds, with forward enforcer Lukhan Salakaia-Loto forced off with concussion just three minutes into the second half.
With the Reds reeling, the Brumbies shifted up a gear.
🐴🏆 Proud to be Australian CHAMPIONS, with a Brumby on our chest! pic.twitter.com/kjlzW69jVN
— Plus500 Brumbies (@BrumbiesRugby) September 19, 2020
Banks powered over for their third try, Lolesio converted, then slotted a drop goal and another second penalty and suddenly the minor premiers had skipped out to a 28-13 lead.
Another O’Connor penalty and a contentious try to lock Angus Blyth in the 64th minute, after the TMO took an age to decide Reds halfback Tate McDermott hadn’t knocked on in the lead-up, reduced the deficit to five points.
But despite an anxious final 15 minutes, the Brumbies hung on to grab the spoils.
“It was a huge effort from the boys,” said jubilant skipper Allan Alaalatoa.
“I’ve got to give credit to the Reds; they were always going to come back in the second half and they were going to make it hard for us.
“I’m really proud of the boys that we closed out the game there.”
Queensland captain Liam Wright was gutted but gracious in defeat.
“Congratulations to the Brumbies, you’ve been a class outfit all year,” he said.
“We shot ourselves in the foot. Our ill-discipline was very costly.
“But there was a lot of fight. We’ll be back.”
🐴 Had to do it! pic.twitter.com/xe0HCA8fMN
— Plus500 Brumbies (@BrumbiesRugby) September 19, 2020
Man of the match: Reds centre Hunter Paisami asked questions of the defence with his powerful charges. Taniela Tupou produced his usual energetic performance, with a number of powerful carries. Reds flank Harry Wilson’s tackle stats went well into double figures and he won some crucial turnovers. Tom Banks had some really impressive runs for the Brumbies and scored a crucial try early in the second half. Tevita Kuridrani had some powerful surges and a number of clean breaks, especially in the build-up to the first-half try by Andy Muirhead. Our award goes to Brumbies flank Lachlan McCaffrey – with his work on defence and at the breakdown, where won a number of turnovers, while carrying strongly – taking the ball up 15 times for 40-odd metres.
Moment of the match: The Brumbies struck for the all-important first points of the second half, with Tom Banks taking a pass with plenty of red shirts in his way. The fullback pinned his ears back and picked a path through the defence to find the chalk. That scored turned a 15-13 half-time lead into a 20-13 advantage – the breathing space the hosts needed.
Villain of the match: This one goes to a silly, but crucial, mistake – when Reds wing Filipo Daugunu was yellow-carded in the 50th minute for a lifting tackle.
For the Brumbies
Tries: Fainga’a, Muirhead, Banks
Cons: Lolesio 2
Pens: Lolesio 2
For the Reds
Tries: Wilson, Blyth
Cons: O’Connor 2
Pens: O’Connor 3
Yellow card: Filipo Daugunu (Reds, 50 – foul play, lifting tackle)
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Will Miller, 6 Lachlan McCaffrey, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 James Slipper, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Nic White, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Solomone Kata.
Queensland Reds: 15 Jock Campbell, 14 Jordan Petaia, 13 Hunter Paisami, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Fraser McReight, 6 Liam Wright, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Josh Nasser, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Jack Hardy.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Amy Perrett, Reuben Keane
TMO: James Leckie