Queensland Reds loose forward Scott Higginbotham scored two tries to help the Super Rugby champions end a run of three successive defeats with a 20-13 victory over the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia, yesterday.
The No. 8 crossed twice in similar circumstances in four first-half minutes, while debutant flyhalf Sam Lane converted both tries and added two second-half penalties to give Reds a winning homecoming after three losses on the road.
Brumbies failed to get on the scoreboard until 16 minutes into the second half, but two penalties from flyhalf Christian Lealiifano and a converted try from winger Joe Tomane gave them a sniff of a comeback victory in the last 10 minutes.
Reds kicked a lot of ball to keep the Brumbies in their own half, but the lack of champagne rugby will not concern their fans after they shipped 106 points in defeats to Western Force and South Africa’s Bulls in their last two games.
“The last three weeks haven’t been the best for us, but we know the resolve and the character of this group remains,” captain James Horwill said in a pitchside interview. “We weren’t that pretty tonight and we stuck to a game plan that we wanted to play and it paid dividends.”
Lang, just 21 and the fifth choice flyhalf for the injury-ravaged Reds, had missed two early penalty chances when Higginbotham broke the deadlock in the 25th minute.
Center Ben Tapuai had made a dash down the touchline and looked like being bundled out of bounds when he launched the ball inside and Higginbotham was on hand to ground the ball just inside the flag.
Four minutes later and it was winger Rod Davies darting down the wing and his throw ball back into play allowed Higginbotham in to score in the same corner.
Lane, who converted both tries, extended the lead to 17-0 after 51 minutes with his first successful penalty of the night, awarded after a lengthy exchange of blows between Brumbies prop Dan Palmer and Reds tighthead James Slipper.
CHIEFS 20, W FORCE 12
AFP, PERTH, AUSTRALIA
The unpredictable Chiefs held Western Force at bay to win their Super 15 showdown yesterday in Perth.
One try in each half was enough for Chiefs to overcome their own careless play at times and continue their impressive start to the season.
It was Chiefs’ first win in Australia since 2010.
“It was tough to get points, we opened them up a couple of times, they scrambled really well,” Chiefs captain Craig Clarke said.
Force skipper David Pocock said the Chiefs made better use of their few opportunities.
“They turned defense into attack very well,” he said. “They defended very well and we coughed up too much ball and were a bit one-dimensional.”
Force ran in five tries a week earlier against Queensland Reds, but weren’t able to capitalize on the numerous turnovers (16) and penalties (13) conceded by the misfiring Chiefs and rarely threatened the try line, with David Harvey scoring all the home team’s points through penalties. Chiefs led by just one at the break, 7-6, courtesy of Lelia Masaga’s 16th-minute try, when he weaved through the Force defense to score next to the posts, Aaron Cruden providing the simple conversion.
What proved to be the decisive play of the match came in the 48th minute, when former rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams attracted a host of Force defensive attention and lobbed an audacious pass out of the heavy traffic to his cousin, Tim Nanai-Williams, who strolled in for an easy try that Cruden again converted. Chiefs led 14-6 and although Force were within one try of victory at 17-12 late in the match, a Cruden penalty in the 69th minute put the match beyond the home team’s reach.