The first round of the Finals Series began last weekend at Ballymore with minor premiers, UQ, taking on strong finishers GPS in the major semi-final at 3pm. Uni got away to an early lead 3-0 with a penalty kick, as the crowd started to assemble for the first semi. I found myself in a very vocal GPS’ supporters group, buoyed by their finals day and were hoping they could erase the 54-5 shellacking their girls received in the Women’s GF against a strong Sunnybank team.
In, the major semi-final, what I thought was going to be a walk in the park for the Red Heavies turned out to be a real arm-wrestle with the Galloping Greens from Ashgrove strong until the final whistle. The last 10 minutes was riveting stuff with the Smith twins, Reds’ JP & Ruan, in the front row dominating at scrum time, with eventually the UQ tight-head prop being yellow carded with less than 10 minutes on the clock. Unversity of Queensland was just too strong, inevitably holding on to win 24-21 and to go straight into the Grand Final in two weeks time, whilst GPS have to play Easts next Sunday at Ballymore for a 3.05PM kick-off after they defeated Souths 25-17.
Bathed in beautiful winter sun in the western suburbs of Brisbane at Yoku Road, top of the table clash in the Hospital Challenge Cup between GPS and Souths took place last Saturday. Ladies Day at the Ashgrove Sports Ground meant for a healthy spectator turnout, 3000+, with plenty of Reds contracted players for both teams turning out for a great afternoon of local club rugby. A pity Raelene Castle was not present to witness grassroots rugby, the bloodline for Super Rugby and the Wallabies, at its raw best. The Honorable Member for Ashgrove, Education & Tourism Minister Kate Jones, was out there enjoying champagne in the Ladies Tent and was not averse to mingling with the strong crowd from both teams during the match.
After the 3.20pm kickoff, both teams went at each other hammer and tong ensuring running rugby was the game we had come to watch. Recalcitrant Reds prop JP Smith led the charge resulting in a penalty try to Jeeps within the first 10 minutes after Souths tight-head prop, Jake Simeon, was yellow-carded for collapsing. The Magpies were not disheartened with a pep talk from the sideline from injured fly-half, Quade Cooper, inspiring the men in black to run in three expansive tries to lead 19-7. But the Ashgrove lads regrouped under Man of the Match half-back, Jordan Lenac, and equalled the score by the half-time break 19-all.
Everyone was braced for the second half as the last rays of sunlight slipped behind the western hills and the grounds lighting was turned on. What ensued was fast-paced attacking rugby with neither side letting up until GPS scored two tries to lead 26-19 with 20 minutes to go. Souths were valiant in their reply with Eto Nabuli running in out-wide after the sustained attack on the left flank. With No. 1 supporter Quade Cooper, now positioned behind Souths goalposts giving constant encouragement to his teammates, the Magpies threw everything at the Galloping Greens, but they never gave up and managed to register Souths first loss of the season. The loss was not enough to dislodge Southern Districts from the top of the Hospital Challenge Cup table on 23 points, but the students at Queensland Uni delivered a mighty 45-29 victory over Western Districts, despite the strong showing from Scott Higginbotham, to leap ahead of GPS with a bonus point to go clear in second place on 20 points. Eastern Districts and GPS on 19 points round out the top four.
At the recent Brisbane Global Rugby Tens, I was fortunate to meet Brisbane rugby favourite, Chris Kurandrani, a couple of times between matches to discuss his future motivations after being left without a Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby contract for 2018. A rather relaxed, yet pragmatic, Kurandrani offered me some insight into his future goals in the sport of rugby union.
Born Kirisi Nasiganiyav in Brisbane on the 12th of December 1991, the son of Fijian Queensland representative, Isei Nasiganiyav, and younger brother of explosive Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo. He is also the cousin of Wallaby & Brumbies player Tevita Kurandrani, so he has plenty of rugby pedigree. It should be noted that he adopted the Kurandrani surname in 2011 (source Wikipedia).
Despite this lineage and having first trained with the Reds in 2011 and offered a contract from 2014, Kurandrani has found himself without any room to fit into Brad Thorn’s squad at Ballymore. At 26, with still plenty of rugby in his 1.9m frame, Kurandrani sees his tutelage would be best undertaken away from the spotlight in the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan, under the guidance of John Mulvihill at Honda Heat. He told me he had not met Mulvihill but was confident that he could bring out his best and potentially play for Fiji at next year’s World Cup in Japan.
Chris’ rugby development started at the outer Brisbane Marsden State High School. With a rugby league excellence program, the school has produced luminaries such as current Australian Rugby League captain, Cameron Smith, and Wallaby great, Isreal Folau, along with other notable talents such as 17 capped Wallaby Joe Tomane now playing for Montpellier. Talking with the Principle, Andrew Peach, he was glowing of Kurandrani’s success and praised him for returning to the school to offer his encouragement to future alumni students.
After the Brisbane Rugby Tens, Kurandrani had a run for Fiji against the Queensland Reds in a 15-a-side trial match where he sustained a knock. He told me, “I’m fine it was only precautionary”. I was a little concerned when I talked to him on the sideline, but he ran on shortly after that and was fine.
We at Brisbanerugby.com wish Chris all the best with Honda Heat in the upcoming Top League season and for further honours representing Fiji at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.