The Brumbies sneaked a 6-3 win against the Reds in a match that made history - not the kind of history one would like, for it produced the lowest score ever in Super rugby. The Brumbies kicked two penalties to the Reds' one for a 6-3 win at the Suncorp Stadium, in Brisbane, on Saturday.
The previous lowest score had also involved the parsimonious Reds, when they beat the Sharks 6-5. This was 6-3 and no tries. This was worse.
It was humid and the ball was like "a cake of soap" according to Stirling Mortlock. But, as John Roe remarked, that's how it is in Brisbane in February - hot, humid, sticky.
The most enthralling part of the match was the snarling antagonism between the two teams.
Apart from verbals and the odd tug, there were two scraps.
The first one was push and shove, which ended with a talking to for the two flanks, George Smith, who disputed every call against him, and David Croft.
The second spilled over into touch and resulted in yellow cards for Smith and Croft. In this fracas Berrick Barnes may have been fortunate not to get a yellow card and Ben Tune with a flurry of uppercuts aimed at Mark Gerrard may attract the attentions of the citing commissioner.
The worst single act of the match was Lloyd Johansson high tackle on Mortlock. The Brumby cut back which made the Red desperate, but then he leapt, flung left hand at Mortlock's throat and brought him crashing to ground, eventually taken off, looking groggy. Johansson also earned a yellow card and may attract further attentions from the citing commissioner. Johansson went off shaking his head, but in fact he may have been fortunate.
For the rest there was little beyond the closeness of the score and the odd single-handed break to enthrall the 25 000 spectators.
The Reds made a late change to their side, apparently tactically. Peter Hynes moved into centre and Brando Va'alu came off the bench and onto the wing, while Johansson subsided to the bench, whence he rose up for the second half after Hynes, who produced the best breaks of the first half, had hurt an ankle.
That the score was 3-all at half-time bordered on farce. The Reds had had almost total domination. The Brumbies had one chance to score, the penalty kick at goal and took it. The Reds camped in Brumbies territory dominating possession to do so.
They enjoyed the 8-4 penalty count, had three five-metre line-outs of their own and another one where the Brumbies threw in and two five metre scrums. They battered and bashed but on the humid, after-rain evening in Brisbane their hands let them down at times and the Brumbies defence was too good all the time, driving back the line-out mauls, stopping pick-'n-go in its tracks.
They did actually get over for a try for left wing Brando Va'alu but there was apparently a handling error in the lead-up.
The second half was different as the Brumbies got more and more possession and the Reds seemed to lose their heads. The gave up the pick'n-drive that suits them best and instead kicked far more. They kicked 11 times in the first half, 16 times in the second, seven times in the last ten minutes when they were 6-3 behind.
In the second half the Brumby line-out was better. In the first they lost one and threw in skew three times in eight line-outs. In the second they lost one and threw in skew twice out of ten.
But both sides had difficulty in producing tidy ball from line-outs.
Julian Huxley kicked the first penalty goal when Croft was penalised, for the second time, at a tackle.
After much attacking, passing up kicks at goal for close-in line-outs, a great break by Hynes off Rodney Blake and a ploughing run by Roe, Clinton Schifcofske levelled the scores with a penalty goal when the Brumbies went off-side.
Hynes had another great break with a kick and follow and Barnes kicked a magnificent, long penalty to five metres from the Brumbies line.
The Brumbies defence through out was wonderful.
The Brumbies were at least on even terms in the second half. Mark Chisholm went on a characteristic gallop but passed to Tune when he wanted to pass to Mortlock.
Mortlock was off target with a penalty from the half-way line and in front of the posts.
When Johansson tackled Mortlock dangerously, Huxley goaled the straightforward penalty to win the match and the Reds looked more and more rattled.
The siren had gone when the Reds threw into the last line-out, but they were 50 metres from the Brumbies line. They had failed to score from five metres from the Brumbies line and this one, too, was wrecked in a turn-over. The ball came back to Patrick Phibbs who kicked it out with great deliberation.
Man of the Match: Stephen Larkham was full of maturity and commitment for the Brumbies, but or man of the match is the Brumby fullback Julian Huxley whose positional play, fielding and kicking were exceptional and he goaled the kick which won the match.
For the Reds:
For the Brumbies:
Pens: Mortlock, Huxley
Yellow cards: David Croft (Reds, 16 - foul play, punching), George Smith (Brumbies, 16 - foul play, punching), Lloyd Johansson (Reds, 72 - foul play, dangerous tackle)
Reds: 15 Clinton Schifcofske, 14 Henari Veratau, 13 Ben Tune, 11 Peter Hynes, 22 Brando Va'alu, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Nic Berry, 8 John Roe (c), 7 David Croft, 6 Mitch Chapman, 5 James Horwill, 4 Ed O'Donoghue, 3 Rodney Blake, 2 Sean Hardman, 1 Greg Holmes
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Ben Coutts, 18 Cam Treloar, 19 Tom McVerry, 20 Will Genia, 21 Quade Cooper, 12 Lloyd Johansson
Brumbies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Clyde Rathbone, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 Mark Gerrard, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan, 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Alister Campbell, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Jeremy Paul, 1 Nic Henderson
Replacements: Saia Saingaa, Salesi Ma'asu, Richard Stanford, Jone Tawake, Patrick Phibbs, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Matt Carraro
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Matt Goddard (Australia), James Scholtens (Australia)
Television match official: Nathan Pearce (Australia)