This was the day where the top seeds in each pool played the second seeded team.
The hot windy Sydney conditions gave way to a cold front, and moisture that ranged from driving rain to drizzle. The wind was still around and although the boys sometimes threw too many long wayward passes there was some fine rugby played nevertheless.
Queensland Red 36 — Brumbies 8
by “Hugh Jarse”
It was 14 degrees with a stiff breeze blowing from the south that was a cold as a welcome home kiss from the mother-in-law when the referee called the Queensland Reds and Brumbies on the field today.
The pre-game warm ups had been done in intermittent showers that had spectators clustered together under whatever shelter they could find, and one felt that the conditions would favour the ACT team.
The Brumbies kicked off into the stiff breeze from the South and from my vantage point, it seemed that the Reds had not fielded their first choice side at kick off as the Brumbies were matching them in many aspects of general play. The prevailing weather conditions didn’t help much with some uncharacteristic poor handling errors at times from both teams.
The Queensland lineout lead by #4 D Taimua-Swain asserted its dominance early, winning many turnovers against the throw, and this was to remain the case for much of the game. While the relatively smaller ACT piggies seemed to hold their own in the scrums, a kick to touch was almost a gift turnover to the Red team.
After seven minutes, on the end of some fairly simple quick hands passing to create space, the Queensland Red fullback #15 C Sefu scored out wide on the northern end of the ground. It was not converted.
After 15 minutes an attacking ACT lineout was finally won, and in a slick set move around the front #3 T. Ross burrowed through the defence near the touchline to score the opening points for the Brumbies. Not surprisingly the conversion attempt into the breeze failed and the score was 5-5.
The Brumbies were not seeing a lot of ball, and when in possession they tended to keep it in tight, perhaps following the old adage that in windy conditions, keep the passes short and the play close. Reds on the other hand were playing a rather expansive plan that saw them bash it up in the inside channels once or twice, followed by forward runners in centre field channels with an option to spread it wide to their sprinters in space.
In the 22nd minute, a Brumbies penalty goal attempt went wide, and the Reds #23 R Glynn in the scored an unconverted try in north-eastern corner from the ensuing 22 m drop kick restart, again on the back of some fairly simple backline drawing and passing. 24 minutes, Reds 10 ACT 5.
ACT hit back three minutes later with a penalty goal to #10 J Shepard from about 40 metres out into the wind, which had dropped a knot or two as the weather improved.
Playing with a confidence we usually see from across the Tasman, the Reds hit back almost immediately with another try in the corner to #14 S. Edwards, which was set up by giant second rower #4 Taimua-Swain ranging dangerously in the centres. The referee called for half time after yet another unsuccessful conversion attempt with the score at Qld 15 ACT 8.
After the break we saw the Reds take control of the game, in improving weather conditions, as they dominated both position and possession to keep the Brumbies scoreless while running in three converted tries of their own to #14 Edwards after 2 minutes, #4 D Taimua-Swain after 8 minutes and #23 R Glynn on full time.
#10 Alex Horan, son of Tim Horan, made a big difference to the Reds backline in the second half adding some starch and direction to the Reds attack, operating as both a first and second five eighth.
The Reds seemed to be able to create space for their outside backs almost at will by committing the Brumbies numbers to the breakdown and close in defence. It was only the desperate scrambling defence of the Brumbies and some poorly directed passes that prevented the Reds from scoring several more tries.
The Brumbies chances of a comeback were not helped by having to play ten minutes with one player short after they were penalised in the 7th minute of the second half with a yellow card for what appeared to be cynical offside play when the score was 8-22.
Qld Red. #4 Darcy Taimua-Swain stood out both literally and figuratively. Not only was he impressive in open field play, but he got through a tonne of work in the close in breakdown and set piece.
Special mention to #6 Tuaina Tualima who tackled like a demon and was a real pest at breakdown time. #15 Clifton Setu was solid at fullback and on attack could reliably beat at lea tons opponent although at times was a little too lateral in his game. #10 Alex Horan was in everything in the second half and directed the slick backline well.
ACT. The piggies never gave up and mention goes to #1 B Katuke, #3 T Ross, #8 D Keir and #7 A Allen fro never giving up. The front row and scrum battle was in the ACT favour, although they seemed to have the lighter pack.
Queensland Red 36 – Tries: Glynn (2), Edwards (2), Setu, Taimua-Swain. Conversions: Horan (3)
ACT Brumbies 8 – Try: Ross. Penalty: Shepard
The Reds must be the favourites to win the title match tomorrow against NSW Schools, after a very clinical performance today against an opponent that never gave up and really challenged them in the breakdowns and scrums.
They will need to eliminate some of their erratic backline passes and increase their physicality at the scrums. They demonstrated an ability to move the ball fast to unmarked players in open spaces and this will challenge the best defences when those passes stick.
NSW Schools 30 — Queensland White 7
Weather: Cool with occasional drizzle
Queensland White running towards the harbour missed a relatively easy penalty kick attempt from 35m out and this prodded NSW Schools into the game. They soon worked their way into a scoring position and translated this into three points through a penalty kick by their captain Jack McGregor (#10) and barely five minutes had elapsed!
Schools again were on the offensive from the restart with McGregor passing wide for his winger. Pplay then went infield and found their rampaging #12, Luke Lough who ploughed over for a very well executed try. McGregor converted and Schools lead 10-0.
Soon after the restart Schools scored when Qld White turned over their ball allowing #13, Guy Porter to score a try after burning off Qld’s right winger, Kendric Felu (#23) along with a solid bump. McGregor was on fire with another conversion from the sideline, despite the wind.
McGrgegor kept the scoreboard ticking over just before half time with a penalty goal ten metres out, in front of the posts, after the Whites were offside.
The game was entertaining, partly due to to the rain halting. This allowed the ball to be spun wide at every opportunity and the Schools’ backs were being well lead around the paddock by their captain and #10 Jack McGregor, with only Qld’s big #12 Maranatha Aj Raeli causing any concern.
After the break NSW Schools got the scoreboard moving again with a penalty goal to McGregor. Qld White were being thwarted by sloppy play, in particular giving away possession through early engagements at the scrum, and baulking at the lineout. Although their forwards got enough ball, the backs didn’t capitalise on it and were guilty of sliding across the field, pedantically.
One of these crabbing movements ended with a turnover, and Schools’ right winger, Sepesa Loga-Tarogi scored a try in the left corner. McGregor converted magnificently, again and then was given a well earned rest.
Qld’s #12, Maranatha Aj Raeli, after leaving the field with a left knee that wouldn’t straighten late in the first half, came back into the fray without apparent hindrance. He promptly picked the ball off his boot laces and beat 5 tackles without going forward too much. But his run straight at Schools gave Qld some heart and a little later their #21 Jordan Lenac scored a very good determined try through heavy traffic. Jayden Carroll #10 converted and this was the last score till full time.
10 – Jack McGregor(c) could do no wrong. He lead the backs astutely and passed and kicked everything superbly.
12 – Luke Lough attacked with purpose making metres whenever he got the ball. However, his tackling was non existent with 4 missed attempts in a row just before half time.
2 – Jack Nettleton was always trying, if a little offside at times. He was the pick of the forwards with only his lock,
19 – Nat Gittoes willing to show the grit and determination required at this level.
12 – Maranatha Aj Raeli was Qld’s best player but also an enigma all day. In the first half he barged and tackled like a bully then couldn’t walk due to his troublesome knee which eventually forced him off. Then after a 20min rest came back on in the second half and played without a worry in the world only to limp off again before full time!
NSW Schools were easily the better team and deserve to be in the final against Qld No 1 (Red) team tomorrow.
Jack McGregor was the best kicker out of the 4 Qld and NSW teams playing on the day getting superior distance and kicking for goal with accuracy. It seemed in comparison that the other kickers couldn’t find the sweet spot.
Schools have a good backline that combine well and run some lovely angles.
Qld Red played with two fly halves today that worked really effectively in getting the ball out wide quickly. With Tim on the sideline Alex Horan (#10) played very well in attack at 2nd five-eighth and at the same time instructing his team where next to attack.
Qld Red today showed they had what it takes to win the Championship. Their forwards are bigger than Schools and are prepared to tough it out in the piggery. With their two fly halves spinning the ball NSW Schools will find it hard to sustain good defence for 60mins.
Both teams have opportunities to exploit around the 10 and 12 channels and McGregor’s general play and his kicking may be the only thing that keeps Schools in the hunt tomorrow.
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