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A single point has handed the Reds their second defeat of the University of Canberra Brumbies for 2012, with the final score of 12-13 keeping Queensland in the hunt for a finals spot come late July.
The loss sees the University of Canberra Brumbies relinquish their hold on the Rod Macqueen Cup for the first time since its inception in 2005 and with the Reds enjoying a bye next week, throws open the race for top spot in the Australian Conference.
The top of the table clash had attracted plenty of attention throughout the week, with the University of Canberra Brumbies approaching the game with finals intensity.
In a genuine dog fight, neither team enjoyed much free-flowing rugby, with plenty of penalties being called for various infringements around the ruck.
Both sides worked with similar game plans which included plenty of kicking for territory and physicality around the breakdown.
The University of Canberra Brumbies scored all their points off the boot of Zack Holmes, who was solid in his second starting appearance. Despite missing the final shot to seal the match, Holmes still maintained an 80 per cent strike rate during the game nailing another four pressure kicks.
“Their rugby has been very good over the last couple of weeks, and for us to get that close to a team with so much Super Rugby experience is very encouraging,” Head Coach Jake White said after the game.
“If you look at the stats they’ve probably got as many Wallabies caps as we do Super Rugby caps, so it was always going to be a tough game for us.
“There are a lot of positives there. It was always going to be a nervous start. It’s been built up as a big game all week and described as almost do-or-die so we had to approach it with finals intensity.
“It felt like a Test match, right up until the 80th minute. When I arrived at the Brumbies people would have looked at this fixture and thought there’s an easy five points for the Reds. I’m pleased with how far we’ve come as a team since then.“
Morahan’s try set the tone of the first 20 minutes, with the Reds enjoying the majority of possession, field position and momentum. After breaking the line the Reds fullback dropped a clever kick over Jesse Mogg’s head, flying past the final wall of University of Canberra Brumbies defenders to score a quality try under the posts.
The University of Canberra Brumbies then weathered a mountain of pressure from the Reds forwards, who set a platform for talented flyers like Digby Ioane and Morahan to attack.
As predicted, the breakdown had a huge impact on the game. Referee Steve Walsh was intent on keeping that area of the match clean, and 11 penalties were blown within the first 25 minutes.
Rookie flyhalf Holmes picked up where he left off last week nailing two from two in the first half, but tries were much harder to come by as the Reds defensive line stood firm.
A penalty from Reds inside centre Mike Harris in the final 10 minutes of the first half gave his side breathing room going into the break leading 10-6.
More penalties followed as the second half opened, with Holmes and Harris trading shots to make the score 12-13.
It looked like the University of Canberra Brumbies might grab the lead with a line-break to Pat McCabe, but a brace of penalties right in front of the sticks released the pressure, handing the ball back to the Reds.
McCabe’s break and a quality driving maul highlighted the first 20 minutes of the second stanza, but neither side could string their attacking patterns together long enough to convert pressure into tries.
In the end the University of Canberra Brumbies had worked their way to a position where they could win the match but Holmes kick slide to the left of the uprights, handing the Reds their second win in Canberra and the third over the ACT based side in the last two years.
The University of Canberra Brumbies now head to Melbourne where they face the Rebels next Friday night.
QUEENSLAND REDS 13 (Luke Morahan try Michael Harris con 2 pens) bt UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA BRUMBIES 12 (Zack Holmes 4 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Steve R. Walsh. Crowd: 16,123.
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore
3. Dan Palmer (replaced by Ruaidhri Murphy)
4. Scott Fardy (replaced by Ita Vaea)
5. Sam Carter
6. Peter Kimlin
7. Michael Hooper
8. Ben Mowen (c)
9. Nic White (replaced by Ian Prior)
10. Zack Holmes
11. Joe Tomane
12. Pat McCabe
13. Andrew Smith
14. Henry Speight (replaced by Tevita Kuridrani)
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Robbie Coleman)
16. Anthony Hegarty
17. Ruaidhri Murphy
18. Leon Power
19. Ita Vaea
20. Ian Prior
21. Robbie Coleman
22. Tevita Kuridrani