Entertaining. That's the word I'd use to describe the two games across the weekend in the Australian Super Rugby competition.
Friday night was a homecoming of sorts for the majority of the Force side, most them call QLD home and they jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. The Reds however steadied and assumed control of the contest. The Reds halves pairing of McDermott & O'Connor led with authority, whilst the back row of skipper Liam Wright, Fraser McReight and Harry Wilson, they continue to impress in all facets of the game.
However, it was Western Force winger Byron Ralston, McReight & Wilson's former teammate from Brothers Rugby Club in Brisbane that stole some of the first half of highlights with two tries including an 80m intercept try on the stroke of half-time. Ralston, just 20 years old, catapulting into Wallaby consideration after previously been overlooked by the Reds and given his opportunity in Perth.
Prior to a late James O'Connor drop goal, it was just 2 missed conversions from Force flyhalf Jono Lance that separated the two sides, one of which was spectacularly charged down right in front by Reds winger Filipo Daugunu. The Reds, much like in Round 1 against the Waratahs also seemed in control and look set for a table topping match up with the Brumbies after next week's bye.
The area of concern for the Reds? Discipline. Another yellow card on Friday night, this time to centre Hunter Paisami for a lifting tackle. They'll have to iron out those sorts of indiscretions quick-smart!
For the Force, they headed back immediately after their game to their homebase in NSW, this week they have a Saturday showdown with the Brumbies, which will be tough. I think once they get back to Perth and some home ground conditions, they could cause some headaches in this competition.
The Saturday night game was a belter between the Brumbies and the Waratahs. Decided in the 77th minute when replacement scrumhalf, Issak Fines snuck through for the match winning 5 pointer. Fines, another QLD reject has found a home in Canberra after a couple of stops along the way.
Before that, the Waratahs had skipped out to an early lead on the back of a couple of Will Harrison penalty goals, before giving the Brumbies some of their own medicine, with a driving maul leading to a try to Hooker Tom Horton. Then, Harrison did away with the kicking tee and popped a chip kick in behind the Brumbies line off a tap, setting a try up for winger James Ramm. The Waratahs were flying!
But as they do, the Brumbies remained calm and rallied prior to half-time. The catalyst? Of course it was, the driving maul. Folau Fainga'a the beneficiary on this occasion, the Waratahs half-time lead just 3 points. A second half was an arm wrestle with just a penalty kick to Harrison the only point scoring play until the Issak Fines try which decided the match. 24-23 and further reason to be optimistic about the future of Australian rugby with some strong performances from a number of rising stars.
Next week, the Tah's take on the Rebels on Friday night, whilst the Brumbies have that date with the Force.