Tom Lynagh and Reesjan Pasitoa: two young No.10s carving their own destiny

Sun, Feb 6, 2022, 8:18 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
The Reds face off against the Force in a trial match at Ballymore.

Tom Lynagh and Reesjan Pasitoa...you’ve got to love a trial which throws up two promising young flyhalves and neither have yet come close to blowing out the candles on a 21st birthday cake.

The Western Force should be encouraged by the 42-33 win over the Queensland Reds in Saturday night’s trial at a strangely different Ballymore with the McLean Stand now gone.

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As ever, this was a trial with a wildly uneven flow to it that should offer pointers not solid predictions for the Super Rugby Pacific season.

The Force galloped to 21-7, the Reds went on a 26-0 scoring spree and, finally, the Force came home strongly as they did last season with the final 21 points.

At the heart of it all was judging two young No.10s at the start of their careers and both with the talent to make a mark.

Pasitoa, 20, is already known to us for his brief cameos as a Brumby in 2020-21 since his deeds as a GPS premiership winner with Nudgee College in Brisbane.

He’s a Perth lad and it’s great to see that coach Tim Sampson has created something in Western Australia that local products want to be a part of.

He ran directly, he passed neatly, worked well with eye-catching inside centre Bayley Kuenzle and showed off the best (or worst) rat’s tail in Australian rugby.

Pasitoa will play a role this season. How big or how early will depend on Jake McIntyre, battling injured ribs, and Jack McGregor.

Seeing a Lynagh return to Ballymore was all the nostalgia that Reds members needed for the evening which doubled as a season launch for sponsors.

Few would remember that Wallaby great Michael Lynagh was just 18 as well when he ran out for Queensland for the first time in 1982 against Wairarapa Bush at the same ground.

Michael Lyngah on debut for the Reds nearly 30 years prior to his son's debut at Ballymore.
Michael Lyngah on debut for the Reds nearly 30 years prior to his son's debut at Ballymore.

Tom gave strong hints that he can kick the ball like his famous father Michael.

One quick, intuitive 50m kick to touch 5m out after the Reds had won a turnover at the 65-minute mark was vintage Lynagh Senior.

He’s not a frontline defender but when he had to make an important tackle he smashed Force winger Brad Lacey with an excellent covering tackle.

The long Lynagh pass is natural. The shorter one is precise. All in all, it was highly promising start.

Consider also that the youngster was only phoned on the day of the match and told that his role had been upgraded to 40 minutes because James O’Connor had gone down with COVID-19.

“I was really happy to get the run, my first in senior rugby. The last games I played in England were under rules with no scrums or mauls (to mitigate close contact situations because of COVID),” Lynagh said.

“I found a bigger voice out there on the field and that’s something I’ve been conscious of from training.”

Getting a lift to Ballymore with grandfather Ian stirred up some family history.

“I’ve heard all the stories and history about Ballymore from my granddad and father. I’m really happy to pull on the jersey for the first time, especially at Ballymore,” young Lynagh said.

“When my granddad was driving here he said he got a big of déjà vu from when dad debuted at 18 which was funny.”

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COMEBACK: Force overcome Reds

Lynagh will play behind James O’Connor and Hamish Stewart as a flyhalf option for the Reds so, short term, the University of Queensland will relish his talent in first grade.

So what were a quick five things we learnt from the trial.

1 COVID CAPERS

Being resilient enough with player depth to cope with late COVID hits in match weeks will be the theme of Super Rugby Pacific.

The Reds lost Jordan Petaia during the week and O’Connor and Jock Campbell on game day. Coach Brad Thorn might have orchestrated the team changes himself but he was down with COVID too.

2 GREG HOLMES

There’s nothing like a rock-solid prop even at 38. The Force scrum dominated when Holmes came on at the hour mark. Come to think of it, the Force scrum dominated in the first quarter too.

Wallabies powerhouse Taniela Tupou sat out this trial. Without him, the Reds scrum is average.

3 HARRY WILSON

The Reds No.8 is a fitter and stronger body after off-season work and he still has those brilliant little touches. His pop pass over the top for the Josh Nasser try was a special.

4 IZACK RODDA

The Force looked organised and reliable in their output, two big traits of Wallabies lock Izack Rodda. He's going to be huge for the Force because he just does his work so efficiently. He pinched lineouts, won his ball, trucked up ball and pinched a turnover at the tackle. Tick, tick, tick, tick. 

5 ISSAK FINES-LELEIWASA

At last, we are seeing what he’s capable of as a scrumhalf not as a fill-in Brumbies winger. His speed, step and pass ignited two late tries to get the Force home.

The tandem act with Ian Pryor will be very productive for the Force this season. 

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