The Waratahs closed the gap at the top of the Australian conference with a 13-10 win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday. BRENTON CHELIN reports.
There have been suggestions that the Australian conference is the weakest of the three, and this error-strewn match between the top two contenders did little to allay that assumption.
However, the manner of victory won't worry the Waratahs one bit, as they fended off a late Brumbies onslaught to record a vital victory. Question marks will be asked of the Brumbies' decision to turn down a kickable penalty in the final stages as they went in search of the win, especially given the current standings at the top of the Australian conference.
There was plenty of intensity, but the quality was lacking, as handling errors halted both team's momentum. The Waratahs had the ascendancy at the scrums, while the Brumbies came out on top in the lineouts.
The Brumbies will be disappointed in their failure to close the game out, despite putting the visitors under immense pressure and playing with a man advantage in the final quarter.
They had held a slim 10-7 lead at half-time, courtesy of a try from Joe Tomane and a penalty from the boot of Christian Leali'ifano. The Waratahs had responded with a try of their own, coming through ex-Brumbies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper.
The battle at the breakdown was fierce, as David Pocock and Michael Hooper succeeded in disrupting the opposition ball.
Kurtley Beale brought the Waratahs level at the start of the second half, before a Bernard Foley penalty with just over a quarter of the match remaining sealed the victory.
It was the Waratahs' fourth successive win over their rivals, and moves them to within a point at the top of the conference. The result will be difficult to take for the Brumbies, who failed to add to their half-time score, despite dominating large sections of the second half.
The pressure will be on Stephen Larkham's side to turn things around on their South African tour, which starts with a match against the Stormers at Newlands next weekend.
Brumbies – Try: Joe Tomane. Conversion: Christian Leali'ifano. Penalty: Leali'ifano.
Waratahs – Try: Adam Ashley-Cooper. Conversion: Bernard Foley. Penalties: Kurtley Beale, Foley.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Michael Dowsett, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Jordan Smiler, 3 Ben Alexander 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Joe Powell, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Peter Betham, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 Dave Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitch Chapman, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images