Hooker Folau Fainga’a scored two tries as the Brumbies beat the Waratahs 19-13 in Canberra on Friday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The Brumbies had won just three of their last seven local derbies, so this was a timely victory for them. It sees them leapfrog the Waratahs into second spot in the Australian conference, although the Sydney-based side have a game in hand.
While the Waratahs exploited their hosts’ ill-discipline in the early exchanges to score first, the Brumbies settled down as the match progressed and managed to control proceedings with relative ease.
After the opening 10 minutes, they bossed the forward battle, kept the Waratahs’ backline at bay with a smothering and cohesive defensive line and had the upper hand at the set pieces.
The poor kicking performance by Bernard Foley will be of great concern to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who was in attendance. The Waratahs flyhalf went one from four.
The visitors made a storming start to this encounter, captain Michael Hooper powering over. With the hosts conceding two penalties for breakdown infringements, Foley lined up a shot at goal, but his effort hit the upright and ricocheted back into the field of play. Hooper leapt high to claim possession and fought his way past the defence. Foley’s easy conversion attempt then hit the upright again.
That would be the last reward in the half for the Waratahs’ misfiring attack, as the Brumbies hit back with Fainga’a’s brace to establish a seven-point lead.
#SuperRugby – RESULTS
Brumbies 19-13 Waratahs
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) March 15, 2019
The rest of the half was played at a snail’s pace, but the Waratahs looked the more pedestrian. They were dealt a further blow five minutes before the interval when prop Sekope Kepu was sent to the sin bin for a swinging arm to the head of Brumbies No 8, Lachlan McCaffrey.
With the Waratahs’ offloading more prominent early in the second half, Israel Folau found some space, took an outside gap to draw three tacklers and popped a pass to Alex Newsome, who went over untouched.
The Tahs were their own worst enemies yet again as they conceded a penalty try and a second yellow card, this time to Harry Johnson-Holmes for deliberately collapsing a rolling maul. At that stage, in the 54th minute, with only nine points between the sides, the game was still in the balance.
But while the Watatahs would normally pile on the pressure, there was no big push. Instead, their error count increased significantly.
The Brumbies almost put the game to bed when Ryan Lonergan got a favourable bounce in the in-goal area after two kicks ahead, but the replacement scrumhalf lost control of the ball as he went to ground.
From the resulting scrum, the Waratahs were forced to kick their way out of trouble. The Brumbies then simply recycled possession to run down the clock and seal the win.
Waratahs – Tries: Michael Hooper, Alex Newsome. Penalty: Bernard Foley.
Brumbies – Tries: Folau Fainga’a (2), penalty try. Conversion: Christian Leali’ifano.
Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Lausii Taliauli, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valentini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 2 Folau Faingaa, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 James Slipper, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Mack Hansen.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Curtis Rona, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Lachlan Swinton, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Cam Clark.
Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images