Set piece frustrations will motivate Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa as he sets his sights on a Super Rugby AU grand final rematch with the Queensland Reds.
The skipper returned from a three-game suspension in Saturday’s 24-22 loss to the Reds at Suncorp Stadium, the hosts rallying from 12-0 down to edge ahead with just three minutes to play.
The result followed a 40-38 Reds win in Canberra earlier this season that flipped the script after the Brumbies had edged them to win the domestic title last year.
The victory ensured the Reds a home grand final on May 8, with the defending champion Brumbies now set to host the semi-final against either the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force once the regular season ends in a fortnight.
Some Jordan Petaia brilliance helped, the winger kicking a 50-22 then soaring for a try as the Reds’ comeback gathered pace.
But the host’s scrum was crucial to first get them back into the contest, James O’Connor’s go-ahead penalty goal coming from a scrum penalty that ultimately sunk the Brumbies.
The 15-8 penalty count against the Brumbies wasn’t missed by coach Dan McKellar or Alaalatoa, the coach voicing his frustrations last year over rival Reds prop Taniela Tupou’s binding technique.
On Friday he insinuated that if the Reds’ scrum had earned those penalties, then the Brumbies’ dominant maul should have too.
The captain was annoyed that they had fallen into the Reds’ trap again.
“Well they got penalties for it, whether they were right or wrong penalties you can’t do much about it,” Alaalatoa said of the Reds’ apparent scrum dominance.
“We knew coming in they pride themselves on their scrum and to be honest it delivered for them.
“I’m keen to play them again; we’re so close but we just couldn’t come away in the big moments.
“Yes, we’re sitting here on the losing side but we still have another opportunity.”
The Brumbies’ backrowers did their best to remind their Reds’ opposites there was plenty of talent in Australia, with Rob Valetini, Pete Samu and Tom Cusack winning the early battle.
Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young and Harry Wilson had the last laugh with some crucial defensive plays, while Cusack (hamstring) and to a lesser extent Samu (neck/shoulder) now both face injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Rebels.
“Valetini’s been outstanding for us, Samu was good and Cusack too before his injury and they’ll compete hard for a long time to come,” McKellar said.
“There’s two good footy teams there (the Reds and Brumbies) that are really challenging each other.
“But we were in a position to win the game and didn’t take those little moments that turn out to be big moments.”