The Brumbies secured a 33-20 bonus-point victory over the Force in Perth to ensure a top-six finish. RYAN VREDE reports.
The Canberra side came to Perth needing a full haul of points to guarantee their involvement in the play-offs. They were never in danger of missing that target, comprehensively outplaying the Force in all departments and bagging the bonus point without too much trouble.
The victory takes them into second, five points clear of their Aussie rivals, the Waratahs, and four points clear of the third-placed Stormers, although both those sides have yet to play this weekend.
The Force had no rebuttal to the Brumbies' multi-phase approach, particularly when it came to blunting their primary strike runners' power at the gainline. This meant the Brumbies were able to control the game tactically, as well as it's flow and tempo. The Force lived almost entirely off their visitors' scraps and looked every bit a side deserving of their log position.
To compound their woes, it would be a former player, David Pocock, who'd inflict much of the punishment. The flanker scored twice in the first half off the back of powerful rolling mauls, while Christian Lealiifano added a try and three conversions to give his side a 21-6 lead going down the tunnel.
The Force improved after the break but could not capitalise on a couple of good try-scoring opportunities. They also fronted better on defence, pinning the Brumbies in their territory for extended periods and forcing them to get more expansive as they went in search of the all-important fourth try.
However, the hosts' resistance finally crumbled, the rolling maul once again proving too good for them to counter. Using it the Brumbies crept within 5m of the tryline, depleting the Force defence in the process, and from there three quick phases culminated in Allan Alaalatoa crossing for a try. Lealiifano kicked his fourth conversion of the match to take the Brumbies into a commanding 28-6 lead with 20 minutes to play.
Pocock completed his hat-trick soon thereafter, emerging from yet another unstoppable maul. The Brumbies have mastered it as an attacking weapon and their future opponents should be wary of this.
The Force scored two late tries but it did little to take the gloss off what was a very impressive Brumbies performance.
Force – Tries: Tetera Faulkner, Luke Morahan. Conversions: Zack Holmes (2). Penalties: Holmes (2).
Brumbies – Tries: David Pocock (3), Christian Lealiifano, Allan Alaalatoa. Conversions: Lealiifano (4).
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Patrick Dellit.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Nic White, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Blake Enever, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Nigel Ah Wong, 23 James Dargaville.
Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images