CANBERRA – The Brumbies bounced back with an important 19-13 win over the Waratahs in their Super Rugby clash in Canberra on Friday.
The Brumbies had been disappointing in their early matches – and blew a big halftime lead against another Australian side, the Melbourne Rebels, in their previous outing – but overcame the absence of some key players to beat the Waratahs.
Both sides ran in two tries, but it was a penalty try in the second half which in the end proved decisive, the Waratahs paying the price for being unable to defend the rolling maul of the home side as the Brumbies joined them on two wins despite having less possession.
Brumbies veteran Lachlan McCaffrey, who played on despite appearing to hurt his right knee early in the match, was pleased his team was able to blunt the offence of the Waratahs.
“We knew they have a pretty strong bench and are pretty dangerous out wide, they have an all Wallaby back row,” he said.
“Our hustle defence towards that last 25 minutes was pretty crucial to getting us over the line.
“It was a good test, and we were desperate to get a win.”
Missing Wallabies duo Allan Alaalatoa and David Pocock through injury in a match featuring plenty of Wallabies, the Brumbies also lost Rob Valentini and Scott Sio to knee injuries during the game – but stood firm to deny the star-studded Waratahs backline.
It was the Waratahs who started best, with a wayward Bernard Foley hitting the post with a penalty, but skipper Michael Hooper snared the rebound after the ball took an awkward bounce in among a nest of Brumbies.
Hooper broke free of a tackle to twist and turn his way over for the opening try.
In the 14th minute the Brumbies struck back, when their attacking pressure paid off and Folau Fainga’a barged over.
They then extended their lead to 12-5 in the 22nd minute, when a lineout and subsequent rolling maul worked perfectly, and Fainga’a scored his second try.
The Waratahs won a penalty near their try line in the 35th minute and a scoring opportunity beckoned, but it was reversed due to a high shot by Sekope Kepu, who became the first of two Tahs sin-binned during the match.
In the 49th minute, the dangerous Israel Folau drew three defenders and popped it to Alex Newsome for an easy try as the Waratahs made it 12-10, with Foley again missing with the conversion to be 0-3 on the night.
However, another powerhouse rolling maul by the Brumbies in the 54th minute ended with the penalty try which gave them a match-winning 19-10 lead.
Earlier, the Chiefs and Hurricanes ground out a 23-23 draw in Hamilton, leaving the home side winless after five rounds.
Both sides scored two converted tries and two penalties in a New Zealand derby that was overshadowed by the mosque attacks in Christchurch in which at least 49 people died.
Players from both sides formed a circle in the centre of the pitch and linked arms as they bowed heads and observed a minute’s silence for the victims.
The Chiefs led 20-13 at halftime and Damian McKenzie missed a 67th-minute penalty that could have sealed the win.
Captain Brodie Retallick said he was pleased to finally get points on the board after four losses in the opening rounds, but wanted a victory.
“I’m slightly happier than I was in the last few weeks,” he said.
“We dictated terms a bit more, which is pleasing, but we can’t be happy with a draw, and we’re still searching for that first win.”
Hurricanes centre Matt Proctor was also disappointed, but always knew they would face a tough task against their North Island rivals.
“It feels like a loss, we came here to get four points, and we didn’t quite achieve that,” he said.AFP