Brumbies beat Reds, continue Super Rugby undefeated run
ACT Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham says escaping a clunky encounter against the Queensland Reds with a win was about as much as his side could ask for after grinding out a 23-17 result at GIO Stadium.
Playing six days after a ferocious battle with the Blues some labelled Test-match intensity, the Brumbies had to dig in and overcome skill errors to hold on and remain undefeated on the Super Rugby Pacific season.
They had led 13-0 in half an hour and threatened to thrash the Reds before a pulsating second half, the visitors twice held up over the Brumbies' line as they looked to steal victory.
"We'll take the win," Larkham said.
"It was a tough second half, we didn't get much possession in that first period of the second half and they've got some really dangerous players.
"We're just about there with some of those (long passages of play), we're just dropping the last pass or turning it over just as we're getting into that 22 metres.
"It was a tough push for the boys from last week's heat and physicality ... some guys were flagging fatigue early in the first half and managed to play the 80 minutes."
The Brumbies are now one of just two undefeated teams after three rounds, joining the Chiefs at 3-0 as they quickly assert themselves as one of the league's top sides.
Battling rivals in Wallabies' auditions, things could hardly have gone better for Brumbies duo Nic White and Noah Lolesio who patrolled proceedings with class in steering their side to victory.
Veteran White was in top form with his craftiness on full display, even nipping over for the first try of the night when left too much room by Reds foe Tate McDermott to cap a near-five minute spell of territory and possession.
Fullback Tom Wright also produced another stellar display in a battle of Wallabies No.15 options, but Queensland's Jordan Petaia made his mark on the contest too with a stylish double.
Wright was dominant and found 106m running in the first half alone, but Petaia came out of the sheds breathing fire with a surging run and an exquisite catch for a try in the corner on 53 minutes.
Petaia's try followed another from a powerful run by forward Harry Wilson, although the Brumbies quickly reclaimed a 23-12 buffer after hooker Lachie Lonergan snuck over on the back of dominant forward presence.
Queensland five-eighth James O'Connor changed the game after entering off the bench, looking the most creative player on the field and his side's most lethal threat as they unsuccessfully chased the game late.
"We definitely improved in the second half ... both teams will take a lot away from that game," Reds coach Brad Thorn said.
"We were hurting ourselves a fair bit in that first half ... whether it was a high ball, an indiscretion in our half, a loose carry.
"The guys had an answer straight after halftime which got us back in the game which was important.
"There was a game there I felt could be won, credit to the Brumbies but it had a bit to do with us not being clinical."