The Brumbies failed to fire at home, managing to score only one try against a Reds defense determined to spoil the homecoming party. Stephen Larkham’s team enjoyed the advantage in both territory and possession, but just couldn’t get the ball over the line, with new Queensland winger Lachie Turner twice cutting down attackers to stop certain tries. Had captain Ben Mowen opted for points instead of the corner on multiple occasions the result might have been different.
Early kicks went over by Jesse Mogg and Nic White, but it was Turner who flipped things around for the Reds. Quade Cooper fired a trademark miss out to their new winger, and the former Wallaby stepped on the gas to finish well in the corner. Shortly after it was an electrifying run from Aidan Toua, bursting more than 50 metres straight up the pitch. Cooper was accurate with the boot and it was their game to lose at the break.
Moog looked a hero when he skated around Ben Tapua’i from a set piece move to bring the Brumbies within striking range, but then looked the goat in the final moments of the game. It looked as though Cooper had made a mistake by missing touch on a penalty, but Mogg made a complete hash of it, knocking on and fumbling around until Chris Feauai-Sautia picked up the ball and went over to kill any hope of a comeback.
It wasn’t the start the Brumbies would have hoped for, particularly losing out on a bonus point at the end, but there were some positives. Henry Speight and Joe Tomane both looked in dangerous form out wide, and the pack went reasonably well, though there was a conspicuous lack of running power in the absence of injured Fotu Auelua. Newcomer Jarrad Butler is a decent enough player but not a like-for-like replacement.
The Reds were a bit scrappy and as always depended entirely on their halfbacks for any creativity. They took a few silly penalties, a couple from Rob Simmons and Ed Quirk immediately come to mind, and will have to sort that out but their defense was good, with Mogg’s try the only real blunder. Liam Gill was a standout, outplaying David Pocock, and James Horwill had a decent hour on the pitch but they’ll need more if they’re going to contend with the big dogs going forward.
BRUMBIES 17 vs 27 REDS
Saturday, February 22, 08:40 GMT, Canberra
08 mins – J. Mogg pen 3-0
14 mins – N. White pen 6-0
17 mins – L. Turner try 6-5
18 mins – Q. Cooper con 6-7
21 mins – A. Toua try 6-12
22 mins – Q. Cooper con 6-14
30 mins – J. Mogg pen 9-14
33 mins – Q. Cooper pen 9-17
48 mins – J. Mogg pen 12-17
50 mins – Q. Cooper pen 12-20
54 mins – J. Mogg try 17-20
78 mins – C. Feauai-Sautia try 17-25
79 mins – Q. Cooper con 17-27
53 mins – G. Holmes yellow (team infringements)
J. Mogg; H. Speight, A. Smith (T. Kuridrani HT), P. McCabe (T. Kuridrani 36-HT), J. Tomane; M. To’omua, N. White (C. Hoffman 66); S. Sio (R. Murphy 68), S. Moore (S. Siliva 68), B. Alexander (R. Smith 68); S. Fardy, S. Carter (L. Power 65); B. Mowen (capt.), D. Pocock, J. Butler (L. McCaffrey 58).
A. Toua; L. Turner (C. Feauai-Sautia 62), B. Tapua’i (A. Fainga’a 58), M. Harris, D. Shipperley; Q. Cooper, W. Genia; J. Slipper, S. Fainga’a (J. Hanson 72), G. Holmes (B. Daley 63); R. Simmons, J. Horwill (capt.) (E. O’Donoghue 62); E. Quirk (B. Daley 53-63) (B. Robinson 63), L. Gill, J. Schatz.
Referee: J. Leckie (ARU)
Assistants: A. Gardner (ARU) & Ian Smith (ARU)
TMO: S. Leszczynski (ARU)