Sport Brumbies player Matt Toomua in action against the Reds at Canberra Stadium The Canberra Times 16 February 2013 Photo Jay Cronan Photo: Jay Cronan
It was a battle of two defiant defences and Jesse Mogg was the only player to get across the try line. The 18-point win will be a massive boost for the Brumbies after they struggled against the Queensland Reds last season. Round one was about showing the Brumbies had improved from their last-round choke last season. It was a gritty performance and is a solid foundation to continue moving forward. But the Brumbies will be the first to admit it was far from polished.
WHAT CAN IMPROVE?
Plenty, and that’s a positive. The Brumbies missed plenty of opportunities to score points through penalties in both halves. Christian Lealiifano missed a couple early while Nic White and Jesse Mogg also got their chances. The Brumbies controlled the play at the start of the second half, but despite holding on to the ball for multiple phases in the Reds’ 22, they couldn’t convert possession into points. Their attack will take time to click, but their defence is still superb.
A BITTER RIVALRY
Jake White and Ewen McKenzie built up the bitterness between the teams all week and the players took it on to the field. There were four scuffles in the first half. Referee Andrew Lees intervened just before half-time: “I know it’s a derby game, but we’re going to get to the point where someone does something silly. Let’s just settle down.” The Reds stole the Brumbies’ spot in the finals at the last-possible moment last season and there’s plenty of feeling between the teams.
The Reds are notorious for deliberately interfering at the breakdown and they used all their tactical nous to slow the Brumbies down. Liam Gill was penalised four times in a row while the Brumbies were on the attack and was lucky to avoid a yellow card. But while the Reds were giving away penalties, the Brumbies couldn’t hurt them on the scoreboard in the first half.
The crowd roared as Clyde Rathbone led the Brumbies on to the field for his first time since retiring in 2009. Rathbone’s the feel-good story of 2013 after overcoming injuries and depression to revive his career. But he got minimal chances to touch the ball with the majority of play going down the opposite side. Christian Lealiifano and Matt Toomua were playing their first games since suffering season-ending injuries last year. They got some early touches, took the ball to the line at speed and started to rekindle their combination without being spectacular. But their confidence will grow after getting through a match unscathed.
ACT BRUMBIES 24 (Jesse Mogg try; Nic White con, 2 pen; Jesse Mogg 2 pen) bt QUEENSLAND REDS 6 (Mike Harris 2 pen) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Andrew Lees. Crowd: 17,058.