After a 28-7 Vodacom Super 14 caning at the hands of the Brumbies, Cats coach Frans Ludeke is unlikely to be relieved. He should be. His side would have been lucky to get zero.
Indeed Ludeke might be forgiven for a night on the town (Canberra is world-renowned for its incredible nightlife) as he toasts the fact that rugby does not award negative points. If ever a side deserved them, it is the donkeys he professes to coach parading as a professional franchise.
The only speck of redemption lay in the fact that, remarkably, the Brumbies only amassed three points in the second half. A half time score of 25-0 promised 50 at least, and the fact that only three more were added describes exactly how haphazard and amateurish Gandalf Fisher’s hobbits were in delivering the killer blow.
The Cats won the second half 7-3. That will be the spin. Guts and glory in the second half, in which anything wearing white and blue was smashed backwards.
Appearances show a side struggling valiantly for the full 80 minutes. Reality shows a team so utterly outclassed in this competition that in denying the Brumbies a bonus point after conceding three scores in the opening half hour is perhaps their most notable accomplishment in two years of Super Rugby.
It would be easy to gloss over a scoreline that is not half as emphatic as the Brumbies dominace of possession and territory, but that would be irresponsible.
The Cats can tackle. And that’s it. There are no structures, no plan, no direction.
It started with Calamity Snyman at 10, who shovelled passes, missed touch from a penalty, threw an intercept pass against the leg of George Gregan and sent a kick-off out on the full during his fourth successive game from hell.
He is by no means the scapegoat, however. Five kicks out on the full, two from Ricky Januarie, two from Earl Rose and one from Snyman was the scandelous waste of what little possession the Cats accrued.
When the gameplan dictates turning the Brumbies and ensuring their backline would have to run from deep in their own half, one kick out on the full is disappointing. Five is diabolical.
Similarly, when the gameplan dictates taking the Brumbies on upfront, the fact that deep in the second half the Brumbies opted for a scrum from a penalty in the Cats 22 says all you need to know about the Johannesburg side’s supposed forward dominance.
The ease with which Willem Stoltz was bullied into touch as the Cats attempted to maul it from 5m out from one of the only attacking platforms they generated was another embarassment.
Rose’s late score came as the Brumbies desperately sought the bonus point they should have secured at least 30 minutes previously. It was opportunism at best and pure luck more accurately.
Ludeke’s team has guts. They tackle and do not roll over. It is not enough at Vodacom Super 14 level, and condoning that calamity in Canberra would show just how low expectations have slipped
The Brumbies will be no happier. The more superior side in every aspect, three points in the final 50 minutes of rugby is equally condemnable. In the context of a tightly contested competition, no-one need tell the great Gandalf just how vital the bonus point spurned could prove.
Tries: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Mark Gerrard and Stirling Mortlock
Cons: Matt Giteau and Gerrard
Pens: Gerrard 3
Try: Earl Rose
THE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
78 mins: Brumbies botch yet another attempt at the bonus point. Cats hack ahead from their own line and Earl Rose has too much pace. He’s under the sticks and he converts. (Rose 1/1
42 mins: Second half, no second wind for the Cats. Another transgression, another three points. (Gerrard 4/5)
32 mins: Cats are being destroyed. Again on their own line, a desperate penalty is conceded. Brumbies in cruise control don’t even bother going for the try. They know the bonus point is a matter of when and not if. Gerrard adds three more points. (Gerrard 3/4)
30 mins: Brumbies go to sleep for 10 minutes, and reignite with an awesome move that switches from one end to the other. Mortlock takes the scoring pass from Larkham and has the pace to get in. Gerrard pops over the conversion. (Gerrard 2/3)
18 mins: Brumbies pinged at the lineout for pulling down the Cats jumper, it’s a tough 45m kick just off the touchline. Calamity Snyman lines it up…it’s not a bad effort but just fades away to miss. (Snyman 0/1)
16 mins: Cats getting ripped apart. Giteau weights a perfect grubber and Gerrard toes ahead to gather and score. Brumbies looking awesome early on… two attacks, two tries. (Giteau 1/1)
8 mins: Brumbies put it through a few phases for the first time in the match, and Adam Ashley-Cooper has time and space on the wing. Willem Stoltz and Earl Rose miss the tackle and he’s in. Gerrard misses the conversion. (Gerrard 1/2)
3 mins: Late hit on Larkham by Wylie Human and Pietman van Niekerk. Penalty is taken from where the ball lands after Larkham hacks ahead. Bang in front, Mark Gerrard obliges. (Gerrard 1/1)