Wallaby stars as Brumbies put down Super Rugby marker
PRE-SEASON WRAP: Len Ikitau’s second-half double was enough for the Brumbies to skip clear after the Melbourne Rebels had fired their first shots ahead of the Super Rugby Pacific season.
The Brumbies led early but needed a second-half surge in a 35-33 win in Wagga Wagga on Saturday.
The Rebels, beaten 24-0 by Fijian Drua in their only other trial game, held sway and led 19-12 early in the second half after stalling the Brumbies’ rolling maul and finding space on the left flank.
But Wallabies centre Ikitau produced the critical plays, twice tumbling out of tackles to score his tries in the Brumbies’ comeback.
His second put them nine points clear before the Rebels scored a consolation try after the siren.
Rugby sevens recruits Corey Toole continued his fine pre-season form with a try for the winners, while fellow sevens product and Tokyo Olympian Joe Pincus made the most of his early minutes with a first-half double.
Pincus was on after Ray Nu’u was helped off with a right knee injury, while Rebels flyhalf Carter Gordon was also limping when he exited in the 60th minute.
The emerging playmaker was sharp before that, throwing the pass for Pincus’s first try and running at the line with confidence.
Playing fullback, Reece Hodge was also impressive while Jack Debreczeni was smooth in pulling the Brumbies’ strings in the No.10.
Victory for the Brumbies followed a tight win over the Waratahs in their other pre-season game, returning coach Stephen Larkham to enter the season later this month with a perfect record.
Meanwhile, Tom Lynagh and Max Jorgensen strutted their stuff before a blatant knock-on was confirmed as a try to hand the NSW Waratahs a 33-32 Super Rugby Pacific trial game win over the Queensland Reds.
The Waratahs won in Narrabri on Saturday night, Nemani Nadolo’s late five-pointer the difference in the sides’ traditional pre-season hit-out that carries a $25,000 prize.
That is why the Reds were smarting when referee Nic Berry was unable to utilise any replays before awarding Nadolo a try, when vision would have shown the hulking Fijian recruit spilling the ball as he went to plant it in the corner.
The Reds still had plenty to celebrate as Lynagh, the son of World Cup-winning Wallaby Michael, played almost 60 minutes at flyhalf and controlled the game well with hand and foot.
The 19-year-old joined the Reds from the English system last year but played only club football for the University of Queensland.
But his long stint in the saddle ahead of last season’s back-up No.10 Lawson Creighton, who scored a try after entering for the final third of the game, indicated he may not be far off a fully-fledged debut if James O’Connor (ankle) remains sidelined.
“I really enjoyed working with Tommy there tonight,” Reds and Wallabies No.9 Tate McDermott said ahead of the season opener in two weeks.
“The history that comes with his last name is pretty special.
“He was awesome; he was loud, he steered and controlled the ship in attack really well.
“It’s really exciting to see someone like that fill those shoes like we’ve asked him to do.”
For the Waratahs, it was centre Max Jorgensen who shone, his first-half try a dazzling combination of acceleration and angle that left Filipo Daugunu in his dust.
The son of former Wallabies and NRL talent Peter was a recruitment victory for rugby last year and the 18-year-old showed he could handle the step-up after already impressing on the end-of-season Australia A tour.
Reds No.8 Harry Wilson would have been hard to ignore for new Wallabies coach and keen spectator Eddie Jones, particularly in the crucial first 20 minutes when the flanker was heavily involved.
He finished a long-range try started by the also-impressive Isaac Henry and returned the favour with a neat offload to put the outside centre through a gap in the second half.
Emerging Reds winger Floyd Aubrey scored the first try, finishing well after Tate McDermott’s cross-field chip bounced behind him.
But he handed that back when spilling a bomb, Mosese Tuipulotu running away for an easy try.
Mahe Vailanu showed his power with two barging first-half tries for the hosts as temperatures remained in the mid-30C after 8.30pm in the regional NSW town.
Taj Annan and Creighton scored to put the Reds ahead, before Nadolo showed his experience with a calm post-try celebration to fool the obscured officials.
Brumbies 35-33 Melbourne Rebels
Brumbies: 15 Tom Wright, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Ollie Sapsford, 12 Tamati Tua, 11 Corey Toole, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Ryan Lonergan (captain), 8 Charlie Cale, 7 Luke Reimer, 6 Tom Hooper, 5 Nick Frost, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Rhys van Nek, 2 Lachlan Lonergan, 1 Blake Schoupp.
Replacements: Connal McInerney, Liam Bowron, Fred Kaihea, James Slipper, Tom Ross, Cadeyrn Neville, Jack Wright, Titi Nofoagatatoa, Rory Scott, Pete Samu, Klayton Thorn, Nate carroll, Jesse Mogg, Austin Anderson, Len Ikitau, Matias Jensen, Declan Meredith, Pedro Rolando
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Reece Hodge, 14 Lachlan Anderson, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Ray Nu’u, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Carter Gordon, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Brad Wilkin, 6 Josh Kemeny, 5 Josh Canham, 4 Tuaina Taii Tualima, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anuru Rangi, 1 Cameron Orr.
Replacements: Isaac Kailea, Alex Mafi, Cabous Eloff, Daniel Maiava, Tim Cardall, Leafi Talataina, Zac Hough, Vaiolini Ekuasi, James Tuttle, Mason Gordon, Glen Vaihu, Lukas Ripley, Joe Pincus.
Waratahs 33-32 Reds
Waratahs: 15 Ben Donaldson, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Mosese Tuipulotu, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Max Jorgensen, 10 Tane Edmed, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Will Harris, 7 Charlie Gamble, 6 Lachie Swinton, 5 Ned Hanigan, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Archer Holz, 2 Mahe Vailanu, 1 Tom Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Sateki Latu, 18 Te Tera Faulkner, 19 Hugh Sinclair, 20 Langi Gleeson, 21 Harrison Goddard, 22 Henry O’Donnell, 23 Nemani Nadolo, 24 Ben Dowling, 25 Hunter Ward, 26 Harry Wilson, 27 Taleni Seu, 28 Brad Amitanuai
Forwards: Connor Anderson, Richie Asiata, John Bryant, Sef Fa’agase, Matt Faessler, Lopeti Faifua, Luke Jones, Fraser McReight, Zane Nonggorr, Peni Ravai, Ryan Smith, Phransis Sula-Siaosi, Seru Uru, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Dane Zander
Backs: Floyd Aubrey, Lawson Creighton, Filipo Daugunu, Josh Flook, Isaac Henry, Tom Lynagh, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Kalani Thomas, Suliasi Vunivalu