The Brumbies were made to work hard in their opening round match with the Reds in Canberra on Friday as they held on for a narrow 27-24 victory.
In an exciting battle, Australia’s two flyhalfves from last year’s Junior World Championship, Noah Lolesio from the Brumbies and Isaac Lucas from the Reds, went head-to-head.
The home side got off to a cracking start after some quick hands by captain Allan Alaalatoa sent centre Irae Simone over right next to the uprights for the first five-pointer.
After absorbing early forward dominance from the Brumbies, the Reds responded well through a try by former Brumbies winger Henry Speight and a penalty by Bryce Hegarty.
The fullback then opened up a ten-point gap between the two teams when he dived over on the stroke of half-time after a sustained period of pressure that saw the Reds go into the break with a 17-7 lead.
Tom Wright and Folau Fainga’a drew the Brumbies level again in the second half after two well worked tries as their forwards swung the momentum back in their favour with 20 minutes left to play.
And the Brumbies eventually took the lead again after some silky footwork saw fullback Tom Banks go in under the post for a converted try. A further Lolesio penalty saw the Brumbies take a 27-17 lead heading into the final four minutes of the match.
But the team from Queensland wasn’t going to go down without a fight and after a strong carry from James O’Connor, eighthman Harry Wilson bashed over under the poles to ensure a grandstand finish.
After some good field position the Reds had an opportunity to get into the Brumbies’ 22, but replacement Moses Sorovi knocked on from the base of the ruck as the Brumbies hung on for a three-point victory.
Brumbies – Tries: Irae Simone, Tom Wright, Folau Fainga’a, Tom Banks Conversions: Noah Lolesio (2). Penalty: Noah Lolesio
Reds – Tries: Henry Speight, Bryce Hegarty, Harry Wilson Conversion: Bryce Hegarty (3). Penalty: Bryce Hegarty
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Solomone Kata, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (C), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Scott Sio. Subs: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 James Slipper, 19 Caderyn Neville, 20 Will Miller, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Andy Muirhead
Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 James O’Connor, 11, Henry Speight, 10 Isaac Lucas, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (C), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Angus Blyth, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 JP Smith. Subs: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Feao Fotuaika, 19 Izack Rodda, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Hunter Paisami
Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images