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Rising Reds spell danger for Brumbies

MONDAY MAUL

Game breaker … Kurtley Beale.

Game breaker … Kurtley Beale. Photo: Getty Images

The Brumbies look the real deal, but don't yet dismiss the Queensland Reds from finishing on top of the Australian conference. As for the Waratahs, until they get some of their X-factor players back, a team short of class and on-field nous will remain among the Super Rugby also-rans.

A compelling 11th round enabled the Brumbies to push further ahead at the top of the Australian conference, after the Waratahs simply handed them the game in Canberra. The Brumbies' triumph was more a case of their opposition doing everything they could to lose the match than any ingenuity from the home team. The Brumbies played smart, remained focused, limited their errors and that was enough, as the Waratahs were victims of being overexcited, throwing too many aimless passes and taking countless unnecessary options.

That the Waratahs ran 848 metres with the ball during the game to the Brumbies' 431 metres and still couldn't score a try shows something is amiss.

The injury toll at the Waratahs has hit them badly, as they are without so many big-time performers, such as Test wingers Drew Mitchell and Lachie Turner, and it's clear several of their back-ups, out wide and in the pack, are not up to the required standard. And the loss of Kurtley Beale to the Rebels has knocked them around, as they now lack any real vibrancy or unpredictability to their attack. Beale was a game breaker. Now the Waratahs have none, relying on predictable plodders.

The momentum is building nicely for the Brumbies, but it is not yet time for those Canberra supporters, who have suddenly begun crowing again

after years of inactivity, to believe the province is returning to the ACT golden era of the late '90s-early 2000s.

Beating the Waratahs is always a marvellous chest-beating moment, but what happened in the final minute could destabilise the Brumbies' campaign. The saddest moment of the weekend was when it was discovered their five-eighth Christian Lealiifano's season was over after he suffered a broken ankle.

Lealiifano has been at the centre of the Brumbies' revival. His willingness to attack the gain line, constantly offloading in contact, has enabled the Brumbies' attack to repeatedly get in behind their opponents to create havoc. A player who would have been picked in the Wallabies squad for the June internationals against Scotland and Wales had succeeded in resuscitating an ailing beast.

But with Lealiifano gone, along with Matt Toomua, the Brumbies could take a backward step as there is no obvious No.10 replacement.

And despite the Reds losing to the Crusaders yesterday, the defending Super Rugby champions are getting it together at the right time. There was so much to like about the Reds' performance in Christchurch. They antagonised the Crusaders all game, and weren't helped by New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence, who penalised them 16-7, with 11 of the Reds' infringements occurring at the ruck. Some penalties were understandable, several were perplexing.

Reds coach Ewen McKenzie would probably feel some sympathy towards former Springboks coach Peter de Villiers, who like many of his countrymen is still apoplectic about Lawrence's refereeing in last year's South Africa-Australia World Cup quarter-final.

The Reds' scrum struggled at times, but the visiting forwards stood up elsewhere, with openside breakaway Liam Gill having a phenomenal game, along with No.8 Scott Higginbotham and second-rower Rob Simmons, who has picked up his workrate in recent weeks. The midfield combination of Ben Lucas-Mike Harris also worked well, while winger Digby Ioane was everywhere.

Who wins the Australian conference and makes the final could easily be determined in three weeks' time when the Reds meet the Brumbies in Canberra.

77 comments so far

  • A typical piece of Greg Growden understatement and hyperbole when it suits him.

    "The Reds scrum struggled sometimes." Oh no the Reds scrum struggled all the time, except when the worst scummager in the super 15 James Slipper was benched. McKenzie must NEVER be Wallaby coach when he cannot select a decent front row. Its always been a problem with him. And your silence was deafening Greg during the appalling Dunning-Baxter years under McKenzie and Connolly.

    Also this article lashes out at the Tahs for not making something of all their running meters but ignores the almost total failure of the Reds to capatilize on a substantial territorial and possession advantage. Faainga might be a good defender but rarely cuts through a decent defence.

    "The Brumbies triumph was more a case of their opposition doing all they could to lose the match." Try telling that to all those Brumby forwards hammering away on the Tahs line phase after phase before Smith inevitably went over.

    And a couple of breaks by Beale and suddenly hes the answer to Australias 10 position. Lets see him under real test match pressure. Wont be so cute I suspect.

    And Barnes had a barnstorming game standing square and taking the ball to the advantage line and finding runners. You dont even give it the dignity of a comment. Instead hes anonymous amongst the Tahs "plodders."

    Stick to the match reports Greg. Analysis isnt your forte.

    Commenter
    mick-e
    Date and time
    May 07, 2012, 6:16AM
    • Pretty much have to agree with mick-e. Why we cannot produce solid scrums, I don't know. Link is missing something! But, then Deans cannot pick well either.
      Qld also took too many dumb decisions...and I'm a Reds guy.

      Commenter
      Cherub
      Location
      Gold Coast
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 8:33AM
    • Mick, very good shout re the bookends, but can't agree with your comments on the backs. Based on current form there is no contest between Barnes and Beale right now. The only reason for Deans not to select Beale at 10 would be because he especially wants him at 15. Barnes has never been the same since he left Qld and he doesn't deserve a Wallaby spot right now. As for Faainga, agreed he's not spectacular, but with Cooper and Ioane either side of him that was never his job. What he brings to the side is crucial to the whole team performance, and it's no coincidence that the Reds improvement has coincided with his return.

      Commenter
      Capt Footlong
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 6:49AM
  • I'm amazed you are whinging about Lawrence's refereeing. If anything Crusaders fans should feel aggrieved. He let the Reds get away with murder for the first 60 minutes of the game. Constantly offside, tacklers not releasing, players playing the ball off their feet at the ruck. And the more he let them get away with it the more blatant they became, until he finally had enough and started dishing out some well deserved, and long overdue penalties.
    The Crusaders were pretty ordinary in the game though - letting the Reds get far too many turnovers (with some help from the ref) - but that can happen, a team starts looking good, and then has a little stumble.
    Good thing their stumble was just against the Reds, so they still came away with the points.
    Against some tougher competition it wouldn't have been as easy.
    The Reds as title contenders, based on that performance? Pull the other one.

    Commenter
    Jon
    Date and time
    May 07, 2012, 6:32AM
    • Jon, strange then that the Kiwi commentators were also at types perplexed by some of the penaltieis that went against the Reds. Given the Reds won the competition last year and have a number of players due to come back from injury shortly (Quade Cooper among them) then not sure that rating them as title contenders is particularly fanciful.

      Commenter
      Gegsy
      Location
      Auchenflower
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 8:30AM
    • @Gegsy We could chuck opinions around all day about the Reds chances, but when in doubt I turn to the experts, the people who make a living predicting sporting outcomes, the ones who can't afford to be parochial - the bookies.
      Current odds of Reds winning the title 26:1 (note that the Crusaders the favourites at 3.5:1).
      But if you really think the Reds are contenders throw some money behind them - $100 will get you $2,600.

      Commenter
      Jon
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 9:06AM
    • @jon is this the same reds that were $30:1 to win the title at the beginning of last year, how did that turn out for them? the reds are a class side, your just ignorant if you think otherwise. last sunday they were beaten by another class side, but it doesnt mean the reds aren't going to be there at the business end of the season. they will be.

      Commenter
      patrick
      Location
      brisbane
      Date and time
      May 09, 2012, 8:43PM
    • Jon the bookies aren't rugby experts and the odds that they offer has nothing to do with expert insight. Otherwise only ex-elite rugby insiders would run rugby books, and ex-elite cricket insiders would run cricket books, and so on... The odds that the bookies offer are purely based on the maths of probability- if they take a lot of bets for a particular team to win, then they need to offset their exposure in the event that they have to pay out on those bets by lowering the odds they offer. Conversely, if they accept few bets on another team, they have little pay-out exposure, so they can lengthen their odds to attract more stakes into their purse. The odds fluctuate all the time as the bookies change the odds so that the new bets cancel out the earlier bets with interest, making sure that bookies overall total purse is protected plus profit. So it's not that the the Crusaders are the favourites with the bookies because the bookies are geniuses and know more than the rest of us. The bookies odds simply reflect the consenus of punter opinion. The Crusaders are the favourites with the bookies because they are the favourites with punters who are full of their own opinions. How much did you say you'd put on the 'saders this year?

      Commenter
      Capt Footlong
      Date and time
      May 10, 2012, 6:10AM
  • Greg, you are so predictable. Whenever the Tah's lose, it is always about them, never about their opposition. Face it, the Brumbies were the better team. It was their performance that won the game, not the Tah's that lost it.

    Credit where credit is due!

    Commenter
    John121
    Date and time
    May 07, 2012, 7:07AM
    • Greg writes for the SMH, it's his job to write about the Tahs. The Canberra Times write about the Brumbies.

      Commenter
      Ed
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 7:10AM

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