The ACT Brumbies have reignited attacking rugby in Canberra, thumping the Queensland Reds by a record margin and giving World Cup hopeful Karmichael Hunt a brutal Super Rugby initiation on Friday night.
The Brumbies belted the under-strength Reds in the first round of the season, scoring six tries to none in a superb 47-3 win to get their year off to a perfect start.
The Australian derby demolition was made better by the fact David Pocock made an outstanding return from two knee reconstructions and the Brumbies showed they’ve added a killer attacking edge to their game.
With Wallabies coach Michael Cheika watching in the stands with Manly NRL legend Steve Menzies, Hunt had a mixed debut in a game that gave him little opportunity to shine.
It’s probably unfair to judge Hunt too harshly given the troops the Reds are missing – including Quade Cooper, James O’Connor and Rob Simmons.
Hunt was out-pointed by opposite number Matt Toomua while former Reds captain James Horwill was given a red card in the dying minutes after giving away far too many sloppy penalties.
Hunt’s kick-off was low and flat, Toomua crunched him in his first run, he was penalised for returning to his Brisbane Broncos days with a shoulder charge and Toomua barged over the top of him to score.
Brumbies Robbie Coleman, Joseph Tomane, Toomua, Nic White, Tevita Kuridrani and James Dargaville all scored in a 44-point win against the lacklustre Reds.
It was the Brumbies’ biggest win against the Reds, eclipsing the previous record win of 51-8.
“We gave away some silly penalties and made some mistakes, but other than that there’s not a lot we did wrong,” said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham.
“We were pretty confident we would play well. But we’re not getting carried away, it’s a long season.”
The only thing that prevented the score from blowing out even further was the Brumbies’ finishing touches, dropping the ball on multiple occasions with the try-line beckoning.
“Physicality was a big buzzword for us during the week. We knew the Reds would come looking for that and we didn’t want to disappoint them,” said Brumbies captain Stephen Moore.
Kuridrani was outstanding while Pocock and Moore made successful comebacks from knee reconstructions.
Larkham joked Pocock needed to string two games together to put his injury woes behind him after playing just five games in two years.
But Pocock slotted straight back into his openside flanker role, having an immediate impact and getting through 80 minutes of work to start his journey back on to the field, effecting a crucial steal at the breakdown before half-time set up Tomane’s match-defining try.
“I loved it, it’s been a long-time coming. It was a really good way to start the year, really proud of the effort and to keep the Reds try-less is the biggest thing we’ll take out of the game,” Pocock said.
“It hasn’t worried me [people talking about my knee], I’m feeling good. But I’m looking forward to the day when people don’t ask about it.
“I thought Whitey and Matt Toomua controlled the game well … I enjoyed it. There were the usual knocks out there, I’m really thankful for all the support the Brumbies have given me.”
In contrast, the Reds only threatened the get across the line once and when they did the try was disallowed because of a clear obstruction.
The Reds forwards were left in a rabble and were belted by a fired-up Brumbies pack, conceding 17 penalties and never even threatening to challenge for the game.
“Mate, pretty disappointed. Not the way we wanted to start the year, but they are the cards we’re dealt but we’re pretty disappointed,” said Reds skipper James Slipper.
“Discipline really hurt us, we spoke about it before the game and we started the year with a lot of penalties. You can’t win games like that, we have to address it because we want to win.
“We didn’t play any of the structures we wanted to play so there’s plenty to work on.”
Reds coach Richard Graham lamented poor decisions in defence, with Horwill being given two yellow cards.
“You can’t take anything away from the Brumbies, they were very physical and very direct, they won 90 per cent of the collisions,” Graham said.
“We didn’t bring it tonight. In each of the pre-season games we made really good progress and started climbing the steps, but we went right back down the rung.
“All aspects of the game next week, we need to go back and start from scratch. The game was bigger than Karmichael. There were 15 guys in red jerseys under pressure.”
The Brumbies now turn their attention to a clash against Sonny Bill Williams and the Waikato Chiefs in New Plymouth next weekend.
AT A GLANCE
ACT BRUMBIES 47 (Robbie Coleman, Joseph Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Tevita Kuridrani, James Dargaville tries; Christian Lealiifano 4 conversions, 3 penalties) bt QUEENSLAND REDS 3 (Karmichael Hunt penalty) at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Referee: Angus Gardner. Crowd: 13,570.