The Brumbies beat the Force 25-10 in front of 35 000 fans at Subiaco Oval, but failed to get the bonus point for four tries.
The Brumbies were expected to gallop around the Perth pitch, but barely got past a trot. The Canberra-based franchise has stubbornly stuck with the game plan that won them two Super 12 titles, but their phase play has become predictable. In fact, the scariest thing about the 2006 Brumbies is the new hairstyle of coach ‘Gandalf’ Fisher.
The Force came out firing in the first half, and their early display was typical of a new franchise playing in front of their home crowd for the first time. However, it was never going to last and John Mitchell’s men were eventually trampled by the more street-wise Brumbies.
The Brumbies only led 8-3 at the break, but blew two try-scoring opportunities when winger Clyde Rathbone knocked on with the tryline in sight and fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper held on when he had an overlap out wide. The Brumbies’ only first-half try came from a Force mistake, when a pass from scrumhalf Matt Henjak was intercepted by lock Mark Chisholm, who ran 50m to score.
The Force missed 18 tackles in the first 40 minutes and should have been buried by the break. Instead, former Australian U19 flyhalf Scott Daruda was successful with his second attempt at goal to reduce the deficit to five. The Force were also kept in the game by the whistle of Stuart Dickinson, who sent Brumbies flank Julian Salvi to the sin bin on the half-hour mark.
When the history of the Force is told one day, there will be a special section dedicated to their first try in the Super 14. It came five minutes into the second half, when former Taranaki fullback James Hilgendorf broke through the Brumbies defence and offloaded to left wing Digby Loane, who found Matthew Hodgson on his inside. The flank passed to Henjak who gave No 8 Scott Fava the try-scoring pass. Daruda converted and the Force had a shock 10-8 lead.
Like a No 11 batsman who gets past 10 and starts dreaming of 50, the Force began to believe that an upset victory was possible. However, it was the Brumbies who scored next when the ball was swung wide to replacement loose forward Joe Tawake, who put Joel Wilson away in the corner.
Two minutes later, a simple backline move from a scrum saw Matt Giteau score his side’s third try and at 22-10 the Brumbies had ridden off into the sunset, albeit with a slight hobble.
Force – Try: Scott Fava. Conversion: Scott Daruda. Penalty: Daruda.
Brumbies – Tries: Mark Chisholm, Joel Wilson, Matt Giteau. Conversions: Stirling Mortlock (2) Penalties: Mortlock (2).