University of Canberra Brumbies backs coach Stephen Larkham believes the side is recovering well from the weekend’s hard fought draw against the Reds and expects a similar contest against the Western Force on Saturday night.
The ACT-based side returned to Canberra bruised and weary after their fast and physical encounter with the Reds, but with an unpredictable Force side coming to town, the team is knuckling down this week at training to prepare for another tough and tight battle.
The Force shapes as a tough challenge for the Brumbies after upset victories over the Reds and Crusaders in recent weeks, and Larkham expects the side will arrive in the Capital full of confidence and determined to notch up their third win of the season.
“We certainly have to be careful about our performance against the Force,” Larkham said.
“Coming off any big game which is physically and emotionally draining, it is very hard to get up for the next game but we are well aware of the Force’s record this year of knocking off really good teams.
“They have beaten the Crusaders and the Reds, so we have certainly done our homework on them and we are really focused on them at this stage.”
Despite only winning two games so far this year, the Force have been competitive in most rounds, averaging 18 points a game and scoring 15 tries, leaving some headaches for the Brumbies coaching staff.
Larkham though is confident that the Brumbies will respond well to the pressure from the Force, who are expected to throw everything at the competition leaders with strong forward play and quick back line moves.
“They are very enthusiastic and have a very enthusiastic forward pack who run the ball really well,” Larkham said.
“They have dangerous players like Sam Norton-Knight who is adding a new dimension to their attack.
“Also Alfie Mafi and Jayden Haywood are very dangerous, so they have quite a dangerous back three.
“They are quite unpredictable in what they throw at you, so defence will be a big area for us to focus on this week.”
While the Brumbies have been criticized for taking penalty shots rather than tries, Larkham shrugged off the criticism and believes the side’s attacking game is as strong as ever.
“We feel as though, we have turned a corner in terms of some of our attacking structures, particularly after the South African tour and we feel that we attacked really well on the weekend and we want to take a step up from that now,” Larkham said.
“Everyone who has seen us play this year, understands that we play with a lot of structure in our game and playing out of our own half is a big tactic that we have used this year.
“Our back three has scored the most amount of tries in the competition and we have also scored the most points in the competition, so our attack is certainly healthy at the moment.”
One player who is defiantly contributing to the Brumbies attacking ability is fullback Jesse Mogg who had a standout game against the Reds on Saturday night.
Mogg was in scintillating form against the Queenslanders with several darting runs through the defence and feels as if he is returning to full fitness after spending three weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.
“I was pretty sore yesterday but since having a quite game against the Highlanders, in my first week back, I thought I took on a little more ball against the Reds,” Mogg said.
“I thought my shoulder went really well on the weekend it was up there with the most physical encounters I have ever played.”
While Mogg has crossed the try line four times this season and been a significant weapon in attack for the Brumbies, his left foot is developing as his greatest asset.
His kicking game has advanced into one of the most lethal in the competition, with Mogg constantly handed the ball to get the Brumbies out of pressure and to find touch further up the field.
“Our kicking is crucial to the way we want to play and I guess it’s been noted that we don’t like playing footy in our own half,” Mogg said.
“The good thing for us is that we have a lot of good kickers and a number of options in the team.
“I have worked on my kicking in pre-season, just to get a bit stronger and more accurate. It has paid off so far this season.”
The University of Canberra Brumbies face the Western Force this Saturday night at Canberra Stadium with kick off at 7.40pm.