The Brumbies hammered the Waratahs 35-24 in Sydney on Saturday to secure top spot in the Australian conference.
The result, and the subsequent conference win, mean that the Brumbies secured a home playoff with one round of regular season fixtures remaining.
With their season hinging on the outcome of this match, you’d expect the Waratahs would have delivered a better performance against their fierce rivals, especially with home ground advantage. But bar a resilient showing from captain Michael Hooper, the hosts were reduced to bystanders as the Brumbies steamrollered their way to victory.
It is believed Brumbies coach Dan McKellar brought in a magician earlier in the week to get his charges fired up for the back end of the season. If that was the case, McKellar’s stunt certainly did the trick.
After the Waratahs opened the scoring with a penalty from Bernard Foley, the Brumbies hit back with four unanswered tries from lock Rory Arnold, wing Andy Muirhead, centre Irae Simone, and hooker Folau Fainga’a to seize the ascendancy. And to rub salt in the wounds, Christian Leali’ifano knocked over all his conversion attempts to hand the visitors a commanding 28-3 lead heading into the break.
The second half was a dire affair, despite the Waratahs coming into the game a bit with a couple of tries. There was a timely try for the hosts when scrumhalf Nick Phipps slid over in the 48th minute after a strong run from Hooper. But the action fizzled out as the Waratahs continually came off second best against the stingy Brumbies defence.
It wasn’t until the 70th minute when beautiful interplay between Wallabies duo Bernard Foley and Adam Ashley-Cooper resulted in a try for the latter. But such was the nature of this match that the Brumbies grabbed a fifth try soon after to all but seal the win.
The Waratahs would have the final say with another try right at the end, but it means little in the context of their season.
Waratahs – Tries: Nick Phipps, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Curtis Rona. Conversions: Bernard Foley (3). Penalty: Foley.
Brumbies – Tries: Rory Arnold, Andy Muirhead, Irae Simone, Folau Fainga’a, Tom Cusack. Conversions: Christian Leali’ifano (5).
Waratahs – 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damian Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Tautalatasi Tasi, 23 Cam Clark.
Brumbies –15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Christian Leali’ifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Lealuaialii-Makin, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Jahrome Brown, 22 Matt Lucas, 23 Tom Wright.