CANBERRA - The tension between the Brumbies and Queensland has reached boiling point ahead of tonight's huge Super Rugby derby, with both sides taking pot-shots at each other's ill-discipline.
Coaches Jake White and Ewen McKenzie on Thursday engaged in a niggling tit-for-tat battle of one-upmanship which included disputed penalty statistics and thinly-veiled accusations over ruck illegalities.
After McKenzie listed the Brumbies up with the Chiefs as past masters of killing the ball at the ruck in his weekly Fairfax column, White brandished a penalties spreadsheet at his team announcement which showed the Reds second to the ACT side as the most penalised team in the competition.
While he admitted his side were the worst offenders, the Brumbies mentor claimed the Reds were throwing stones from glass houses.
White also joked he hoped the game didn't become too heated at Suncorp Stadium as Queensland had been penalised for foul play 14 times this season — twice as many as the Brumbies.
"I'd like to believe that referees at this level would see through things and not read too much into what's written in the media," the former Springboks coach said. "Bottom line is he's wrong. The Reds are second — not the Chiefs."
However, the Reds were quick to take issue with White's spreadsheet as, on average, Queensland (10.75) were actually behind the Chiefs (10.85) and Brumbies (11.63) while, on their own stats, they are No.6 in conceding penalties (10.4 per game), with the Brumbies (11) second to the Chiefs (11.4).They also claimed the Brumbies gave away two more penalties on average in defence than any other side.
McKenzie sparked the debate in his column by writing about the tightness of games through free-for-all breakdowns where teams struggle to recycle quick possession for attack.
"Nothing makes a game better than by having a strong referee at the tackle and ruck area," McKenzie wrote.
Brumbies assistant coach Laurie Fisher immediately fired up by tweeting: "Interesting and timely article by Ewen today. I wonder if he has emailed a copy to the referee for this weekend. No stone unturned. Class."
McKenzie denied it was an attempt to grab the attention of referee Glenn Jackson but didn't mind Fisher's response.
"I've been writing for five years now and it's the first time he's complimented me so I'm pleased about that," McKenzie wrote.
"It was an informative piece for the general public to understand how the game works."
The desperation of both sides has been evident all week as the victor will hit the competition lead.
White began the mind games this week by calling the Reds "king favourites" before labelling McKenzie as a shoo-in to replace under-pressure Robbie Deans if there's a change of Wallabies coach.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen also admitted his side would look at slowing the ball at the breakdown to limit the damage of halves Will Genia and Quade Cooper.