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Brumbies hard to beat on home turf and tough to pin down in own half


Ewen McKenzie

Half truths ... the Brumbies prefer to kick in their own territory.

Half truths ... the Brumbies prefer to kick in their own territory. Photo: Getty Images

It will be disappointing to see anything but a massive crowd at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night when we lock horns with Australian conference leaders, the Brumbies.

This isn't just because of the ramifications the result will have on both team's campaigns but that the Brumbies have been extremely busy reminding us that in their mind, it was their poor performance against us in round seven that allowed the Reds to walk away 20-13 victors at Suncorp Stadium.

Having listened to the thoughts of Jake White and their team over the past few days, it would appear that the performance, selection and tactics of the Reds had nothing to do with that loss. It was their off-night which allowed the Reds to dominate them physically at the breakdown and force them into too many errors.

This attitude, combined with the fact that they have managed to include the tag “champions” in almost every reference they've made of the Reds, shows us the mentality in which they are approaching this game.

But it's funny how things are remembered. I recall castigating our forwards on that night for not nailing a try-scoring lineout drive opportunity just prior to halftime against the Brumbies, which would have made the score 21-0 in our favour. As it was, the Brumbies came back into the game by scoring 10 points while Liam Gill was off the field following a yellow card. They only scored three points when it was 15 v 15. Is that tactics or poor performance?

Entering the match on Saturday night I can assure you the Reds will be paying the Brumbies the proper respect and we acknowledge that they are a team with many strengths. Looking back across the season, there is evidence that teams have not shown enough respect for their capabilities and have been stung for it. I can assure you we won't make that mistake.

The Brumbies are a team which rank in the top two as far as field position goes. A quick analysis of how they use their possession shows that in the past six games, they have kicked on every occasion expect one when they receive usable scrum and lineout ball within their own half.

With the way the game is being played this year, this approach makes good sense. You don't want to play the game in front of your own goal posts when there is uncertainty around the breakdown contest.

I guess the question remains is what happens if your opponents subscribe to the same theory - if both teams refuse to play football in their own half? It then becomes a contest of pressure, errors and quality of kicking. We already witnessed this when the Crusaders took on the Stormers. It was 43 kicks to 47 kicks but many thought it was a good contest as the execution of the basics of the game was paramount.

A cursory look at the key statistics show the Brumbies have been very good at getting the key parts of the game right. Don't be deceived by their player's statements about the 'simplicity' of their play. Simple means clarity and this means focus becomes easy under pressure.

They don't play any rugby in their own half and they play very direct at the goal posts when they enter opposition territory. They then milk penalties for their efforts. Over the past four weeks they've been improving their try-scoring potency and are above the competition average in line breaks, broken tackles and ruck speed numbers.

They have been similarly effective in defence although I did notice they best at conceding penalties at the ruck in their own half.

Despite all this the Reds will travel to Canberra with some confidence for a couple of reasons. Playing it Canberra was previously a graveyard for the Reds but this changed last season.

Everyone is eager to tell me that it's a different Brumbies team now to the one we beat last year and there's a difficult culture there too. I don't disagree. But that won't stop us from taking confidence from producing a result in a stadium we have never won at before, where we were playing at zero degrees.

Yes, the team and tactics they will employ will be different this time round, but they are also less experienced have already lost this season in Canberra to the Sharks. This shows us it isn't an impossible task.

As much as the Brumbies have defied expectations and we have battled, I note that we have actually won the same number of games, suggesting that we are more than competitive. If you look further you will notice that of the teams we have both played against, we have actually overcome a number of the same sides. The difference has been that the draw requires the Reds to play the Stormers and Crusaders in 2012, both losses, while the Brumbies play the Cheetahs and Hurricanes, two wins.

We will run onto Canberra Stadium with great respect for what the Brumbies have achieved and how they have gone about it. We understand each other pretty well so it will come down to a matter of will and attitude.

I like these types of contests. Gunfighters at 20 paces.


14 comments so far

  • Ewen

    Nice article; it's always good to see how coaches approach each game mentally as that's something that struggles to get media soundbites. Don't read too much into the Brumbies post match comments from earlier in the year. They're simply commenting on what they felt they could've and should've done better. They're owning their actions.

    It takes a good team to capitalise when other teams don't execute properly, which is what the Reds did. Don't develop a fortress mentality; no only is it boring and one dimensional but skill and strategy must be pre-eminent.

    The Tahs tried that and went home without scoring a try. On second thought, maybe you should have a fortress mentality...:)

    Date and time
    May 24, 2012, 12:50PM
    • A couple of weeks ago I would have had to put my money on the Brumbies at home but they have just lost their No 10 and the Reds have got there's back. Too hard to call but surely the game of the round. PS as a NSW supporter - of both codes - all neutral games this year are a good thing !!

      Date and time
      May 24, 2012, 1:06PM
      • Love your work Link. Time to wind the boys up for another really big one. Carn the Reds ! Swarm all over them !

        Date and time
        May 24, 2012, 1:33PM
        • Ewen,
          I liked the article and hope the reds can come away from ACT with the win. I see you chose not to mention Jake White's decision to leave Michael Hooper sitting on thebench for 65-70mins when the Brumbies played in Brisbane. Robinson and Gill ran riot at the breakdowns last time against a much slower back row, but Hooper will make it much harder for the reds this week.

          Date and time
          May 24, 2012, 2:16PM
          • There will be only one Aussie team in the finals this year. Who it is doesn't matter because they'll be gone first round.

            Date and time
            May 24, 2012, 2:51PM
            • ooo theDiff we are soo scared. not. Looking forward to seeing you choke on your humble pie bro

              Date and time
              May 25, 2012, 8:37AM
          • Good article Ewen,
            Always great to see your thoughts on coaching & teams.
            With reference to your second last paragraph when you stated "so it will come down to a matter of WILL and ATTITUDE". Do you mean Will Genia and the attitude of our number 10 for a whole 80mins? We all luv Quade (well Qlders do) and just hoping he has a Super 15 attitude and not a World cup one.....are there many Kiwi's in Canberra?? :-)

            Date and time
            May 24, 2012, 4:33PM
            • A good article but it provides some extra motivation for the Brumbies. If they are to beat the reds they need to be super aggresive with Quade Cooper just like the All Blacks were.

              Cooper is a class player on his day so this is easier said than done but you have to limit his time and move up on him fast.

              Date and time
              May 24, 2012, 5:40PM
              • @theDiff obviously a Kiwi same comments always. With the draw and a Reds victory Saturday night both the Bumbies and the Reds will make the final 6 (Reds 56 points and Brumbies scrapping in on 53) other finalists in order Stormers, Bulls, Crusaders, Chiefs. The Australian teams after a slow start to the season are more than competitive and causing upsets.

                Date and time
                May 24, 2012, 5:42PM
                • @Sandfly, Brumbies on 53? That's 9 points out of five games, four of which are against teams 10th or lower on the table. For a team who has scored 22 tries in five games, they are on track to pick up more points than that out of the Blues and Force games alone.

                  Date and time
                  May 25, 2012, 9:07AM

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