Henry Speight scored a brace as the Brumbies beat the Waratahs 28-12 in Sydney to claim the inaugural Dan Vickerman Cup on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The teams will from now on contest for the cup in their first Super Rugby meeting against each other every season in honour of Vickerman, whose untimely death on 18 February rocked Australian rugby and placed greater awareness on mental health within professional sport. The late lock started his Super Rugby career at the Brumbies and went on to become a franchise legend at the Waratahs.
With two wins between them in six matches so far this season, little separated these sides coming into this encounter. But with the Brumbies on a record eight match-winning streak against Australian opposition, including two against the Waratahs, the visitors carried all the momentum.
As one of the commentators summed up before kick-off, this was a match-up ‘with plenty of motivation and milestones’. Both teams wanted to play for and honour Vickerman by claiming the cup, while Waratahs duo Nick Phipps and captain Michael Hooper won their 100th Super Rugby caps. At 25 years and 140 days, Hooper set the record for the youngest player in the history of the competition to reach the landmark.
But this was also a match-up with plenty of enforced errors and a shortage of skill and execution.
The hosts exerted early pressure on the Brumbies, but opted to kick for touch twice instead of getting points on the board. Set on successfully defending their line, the Brumbies infringed at the lineout on numerous occasions, before the referee lost his patience and yellow carded Scott Fardy. The numerical advantage aided the Waratahs, with loosehead prop Tom Robertson barging over from close range.
The Brumbies hit back in the 27th minute through hard-running centre Tevita Kuridrani to level the scores at 7-7, but the time that lapsed between the teams’ tries was just an unpleasant phase filled with errors.
The Brumbies were much improved in the second half as they won the breakdown battle to keep the Waratahs at bay.
Neither side could add to their tally in the opening 20 minutes of the second stanza. But in a frenetic spell between the 60th and the 63rd minutes, the Brumbies crossed for back-to-back scores through Robbie Abel and Speight, before the Waratahs responded to make it a 21-12 scoreline.
With a nine-point difference, the Waratahs were still in with a shot to overturn the result, but Speight sealed the victory for the Brumbies when he stepped past two defenders to complete his double.
Waratahs – Tries: Tom Robertson, Jake Gordon. Conversion: Reece Robinson.
Brumbies – Tries: Tevita Kuridrani, Robbie Abel, Henry Speight (2). Conversions: Wharenui Hawera (4).
Waratahs – 15 Andrew Kellaway, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Israel Folau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Jack Dempsey, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Ned Hanigan, 21 Michael Wells, 22 Jake Gordon, 23 David Horwitz.
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nigel Ah Wong, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Lolo Fakaosilea, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander.
Subs: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leulua’Iali’i-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Ben Hyne, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Andrew Smith.
Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images