BRISBANE Stephen Larkham kicked his first drop goal in 18 months and set up a vital try for winger Mark Bartholomeusz to give ACT Brumbies a 23-15 win over Queensland Reds in an all-Australian Super 12 match at Ballymore on Friday.
Larkham had not landed a drop goal since his amazing 50-meter effort in the 1999 World Cup semifinal against South Africa but ended his drought on Friday when he snapped a three-pointer after halftime.
The Wallaby flyhalf then set up the matchwinning try for Bartholomeusz with a perfectly weighted grubber-kick in the 76th minute.
Queensland and Australian fullback Chris Latham sprinted across field to clean up Larkham’s kick but slipped on the soggy turf as the ball bounced straight to Bartholomeusz, who sprinted away to score next to the posts.
“It was a very tough match, it was everything we expected,” Brumbies captain George Gregan said.
“We always prepared for that sort of a game so it was a good hard win.”
The Brumbies started as strong favourites but took a long time to assert themselves on the Reds, who had lost each of their past three matches by seven points or less.
They trailed 6-3 after the first 30 minutes before Bond scored outside from a set move off the back of the scrum, and led by only 10-9 at halftime.
Larkham extended the lead to four points when he slotted a drop goal immediately after the re-start but Queensland flyhalf Nathan Spooner kept the Reds in touch with his fourth straight penalty.
Stirling Mortlock, who kicked two penalties and two conversions after missing two early attempts, landed his second penalty midway through the second period as the game developed into a tight battle between the forwards.
Shane Drahm then pulled the Reds back to a within point after replacing Spooner.
Bond had a second try disallowed when he was turned over and Gregan spilt the ball over the line after dummying his way through the defence before Larkham secured the win when he set up Bartholomeusz for a try in the 76th minute.
“It wasn’t a classic game but it was a gutsy win by them, they’re a very hard team to beat,” Queensland captain Daniel Herbert said.
“It was disappointing for us, I thought it was pretty even but at the moment we can’t seem to buy a win.”
The Reds will fly to South Africa on Saturday to prepare for next week’s match against the Stormers in Cape Town while the Brumbies take on the Hurricanes in Wellington next Friday.