“IT’S OUR TIME,” the Queensland Reds’ marketing for the Super Rugby AU Final has screamed from the moment they locked in top spot in the standings, and all the hosting rights that came with it.
It’s a theme that has been picked up by players in press conferences here and there, and the belief is no doubt building that, after beating the Brumbies twice already in 2021, Saturday night will indeed be their time.
It’s a theme the Brumbies have noticed too, and it will almost certainly be stuck up on their changeroom walls underneath Brisbane’s Lang Park on Saturday night.
“We know that Queensland are the favourites, and deservedly so. A lot of people want them to win, it’d be a great story in a few people’s eyes, for the game in this country,” Brumbies coach Dan McKellar noted this week.
“But it’s our job to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
For their part, the Reds seem to have taken on a view of, ‘yeah, well they started it’ with scrum-half Tate McDermott this week making reference to the manner in which the Brumbies celebrated their 28-23 triumph in last year’s decider.
“There’s been a couple of points where we’ve rewatched that — you see they kick it out and there’s a bit of carry-on [after] they win,” McDermott said.
“There’s been a fire burning since that moment last year and it’s helped.”
It’s all very tantalising and everything, but these two teams hardly need to resort to mind games.
Over the course of 10 rounds of Super Rugby, just four points separated the Reds and Brumbies on the competition table, but the numbers behind those numbers were even closer.
The Reds scored 271 points to the Brumbies’ 267. The Brumbies conceded 165 points to the Reds’ 170. Both teams finished the regular season with five bonus points.
The Reds scored 33 tries and conceded 18, while the Brumbies scored 37 and conceded just 15 – the fewest of any team either side of the Tasman, with the crossover series against the New Zealand teams now just a week away.
Even with the Brumbies scoring just two tries against the Western Force in the qualifying final, they’re still averaging 4.3 tries per match to the Reds’ 4.1.
Of the sides’ two meetings this year, in Canberra in March and in Brisbane in April, the aggregate scoreline reads: Reds 64, Brumbies 60. The last three clashes between the two sides have been decided by a total of nine points.
The Super Rugby AU season stats tell us the Reds and Brumbies are ranked either first and second for points and tries scored per game, metres made, clean breaks, and tackle success rates. Both are in the top three teams for goal-kicking success rate, defenders beaten, turnovers conceded, and ruck success rates.
In set pieces, the Brumbies led the competition at the lineout, but the Reds have the best scrum in the country.
The Reds do have a distinct advantage in the game being played in Brisbane, with just six Super Rugby champions over 26 seasons winning their title away from home.
“I think it does count for a bit. We’ve earned the right to be on top and deserved a home final,” Reds centre Hamish Stewart said this week.
“We put in the work to get where we are now, we just have to continue that form going into the final.”
The Brumbies have been quick to take the underdog tag this week, with McKellar naming a team without prop James Slipper and back-rower Pete Samu, after both picked up knee injuries last weekend.
“We’ve just got to get our game right and go up there to enjoy what’s really a special occasion, understand that the pressure’s all on the opposition, not on us.
“We can just go about our work, and try and cause a major upset.”
For their part, and having named a side only missing boom centre Hunter Paisami, the Reds said they are comfortable with favouritism.
“Yeah definitely, and we’re a team that thrives under pressure,” Stewart said.
“We’re looking forward to the final and we can’t wait to get out there in front of our home fans, and hook in for the boys.”
Overall, the Brumbies hold a large head-to-head advantage, winning 27 of the 39 clashes between the two sides since 1996. And they’ve won nine of the 17 games in Brisbane too, but have now lost six on the trot at Lang Park since 2015.
But, of the 160 minutes they’ve played this season, the Brumbies have led for 156 of them.
And maybe that’s why the sneaky jibes have flown back and forward this week. There’s been nothing between these two teams all season, and it’s hard to see that being much different come Saturday night.
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman starts next weekend, with three games in Australia and two in New Zealand.