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Kearney shows glimpses of class on debut but Force fall short

Rob Kearney became the oldest outfield player ever to make his Super Rugby bow as the Brumbies displayed their superiority in Perth.

Rob Kearney (file pic).
Rob Kearney (file pic).
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

THE ACT BRUMBIES launched their Super Rugby AU title defence with a clinical win over the Western Force, for whom Rob Kearney debuted at fullback, while the Queensland Reds inflicted a record winning margin over the NSW Waratahs on Friday.

The Brumbies came out on top of a torrid contest against Kearney’s side, winning 27-11 in Perth in what was Force’s first home match in almost four years.

The Reds earlier kicked off the new season with a record 41-7 derby bonus-point win over the Waratahs in Brisbane.

The Brumbies always had the measure of the fired-up Force, capitalising on their ill-discipline and icing victory with two second-half tries.

Kearney, though, who became the oldest ever back to make his Super Rugby debut at 34 years and 330 days, showed a number of glimpses of the ability that saw him become a mainstay at 15 for Ireland for over a decade.

The Co. Louth native was typically impressive in fielding high balls, also bouncing off a couple of early tackles during a generally solid outing.

Wallaby scrum-half Nic White cleverly put fly-half Noah Lolesio through a gap to score for the Brumbies midway through the first half.

The Force trailed 13-6 at half-time and rued their lack of discipline to relinquish territory and momentum with Lolesio cashing in with two penalties.

The Brumbies scored soon after the restart with Len Ikitau slicing through and offloading to his centre partner Irae Simone for a try and a 20-6 lead.

Issak Fines killed off the Force’s hopes with a late try, while Argentine scrum-half Tomas Cubelli scored a consolation try in the final minutes.

The Force had a winless return to the Australian domestic tournament last year, but have gone shopping in preparation for their first Super Rugby game in Perth since 2017 after being axed from Super Rugby.

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The Reds, meanwhile, skippered for the first time by Wallaby James O’Connor, scored five tries to one with O’Connor landing five conversions and two penalties against the Waratahs, who played a man down following Izaia Perese’s first-half red card.

Queensland are looking to push on this season after going down narrowly 28-23 to the Brumbies in last year’s decider.

“The forwards really worked hard tonight, it wasn’t our most clinical performance, but we’re happy with that,” O’Connor said.

“When they got the red card we could have lost our shape. We want to have 15 on 15 to make it fairer but those are the rules and you’ve got to stick to them.”

The Waratahs began well when scrum-half Jake Gordon finished off a burst from Jack Maddocks to score in the third minute. They were the last points NSW were to score in the match.

Queensland quickly gained control with three unanswered tries before half-time.

The Waratahs fortunes nosedived when centre Perese was red carded for a dangerous lifting tackle on Hunter Paisami nearing half-time.

The Reds went in at half-time leading 27-7 but it took until the final 10 minutes for further points, with Filipo Daugunu grabbing his second try and replacement winger Ilaisa Droasese crossing in the corner, both converted by O’Connor.

The Waratahs have lost more than 1,500 Super Rugby caps of experience over the past two seasons, headlined by Michael Hooper’s one-year sabbatical in Japan.

© – AFP, 2021

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