An accurate kicking display by flyhalf Christian Lealiifano could steer the Brumbies past the Force in Perth on Friday, writes MARIETTE ADAMS.
Level on points with the Waratahs in the Australian conference, the Brumbies will be eager to secure a bonus-point victory to put pressure on the men from Sydney, who play on Saturday. However, Stephen Larkham's team will have to make the game safe first and Lealiifano is just the man to do it.
The flyhalf has been consistent off the tee throughout the season, but it's because of his accurate tactical kicking that the Brumbies have conceded the fewest points (204) and tries (15). If Lealiifano can win the territorial battle for the Brumbies on Friday, he could pave the way for their ninth victory to secure a place in the Vodacom Super Rugby play-offs.
The Force have been diabolical in 2015 and languish at the foot of the standings. In their last two home matches, though, they've been particularly poor, losing 23-3 against the Highlanders and 32-10 against the Reds. This encounter will be their last at home this season and they'll have to show some fight against the Brumbies to give their fans something to cheer about.
The Brumbies have made one injury-enforced change to their starting lineup, with lock Blake Enever replacing Sam Carter, after the latter picked up a medial ligament tear in his knee against the Bulls last week.
Force coach Michael Foley has opted for a different halfback pairing, with scrumhalf Alby Mathewson and flyhalf Zack Holmes replacing Ryan Louwrens and Sias Ebersohn respectively. In the pack, lock Sam Wykes is welcomed back into the run-on XV, while tighthead prop Guy Millar earns his first start in the competition. Steve Mafi, Tetera Faulkner and Louwrens are relegated to the bench and Ebersohn misses out on selection altogether.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Brumbies 9, Force 4, Draw 1
In Perth: Brumbies 4, Force 2, Draw 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Force have won one of their last eight games against the men from Canberra (drawn one, lost six).
– The Force’s last three wins have been against fellow Australian conference opponents, but these have stretched out over a run of 18 matches.
– The Brumbies have lost two of their last four at home. Prior to that, they had lost just one of 15 in Canberra.
– The Force have scored the fewest points this season (212) and the Brumbies have conceded the fewest (204).
– The Brumbies (two) and Force (three) have scored the fewest number of tries when starting out with the ball from within their own half in 2015.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Force||Luke Burton (47)||Luke Morahan, Matt Hodgson (3)||Dane Haylett-Petty (758)||Kyle Godwin (112)|
|Brumbies||Christian Lealiifano (133)||Joe Tomane (5)||Henry Speight (599)||Christian Lealiifano (110)|
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.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)
Photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images