JON CARDINELLI writes that great goal-kicking was the difference in the Brumbies’ 37-25 victory over the Hurricanes in Wellington.
How did the Hurricanes conspire to throw this match away? They scored their fourth try in the third quarter and looked to be cruising to an important win, but faded badly in the last 20 minutes and allowed the visitors to score 19 unanswered points.
It will be regarded as an ugly win for Jake White’s team even though they bagged five log points from a difficult visit to Wellington. It was also ironic that some form of kicking would propel the Brumbies to a fantastic result, as their kicking from hand was nothing short of aimless.
They controlled the earlier periods of play and shot to a 10-0 lead, but were subsequently punished for some poor tactical punts. Too often the high balls or tactical probes were too long, allowing a dangerous Hurricanes back three to collect and counter-attack with damaging results.
The Hurricanes forwards also came back strongly, and TJ Perenara scored in the 17th minute after the heavies had set a great platform. Victor Vito added the hosts’ second from a neat set-piece move, and the Hurricanes looked to have seized the initiative right before half-time.
Perenara snatched his second after the break, finishing an opportunity that was rooted again in strong forward play and poor kicking by the Brumbies.
Rookie flyhalf Zack Holmes managed to goal a penalty during this period, but the Canes kept on coming, and another strong drive from the lineout had the Brumbies defence stretched. Reserve prop Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen barrelled over from a subsequent surge, and at 25-16 the Canes were set for a fine finish.
But while the Canes had done well to win the battle for territory and punish Brumbies errors, they had failed to capitalise via an accurate goal-kicking performance. Following Toomaga-Allen’s try, they were nine points ahead, but wayward goal-attempts meant they had left a further nine points out on the field. It was this inaccuracy, as well as an unforgivable lapse in the last quarter, that would result in them losing the game.
The Brumbies were guilty of poor kicking out of hand, but they stuck to their tactics and began to enjoy the benefits in the dying stages. Their forwards also came back strongly, and it was some neat inter-passing between the visiting tight forwards that resulted in a try by lock Sam Carter.
They looked to have botched a scoring opportunity when they knocked on five metres out from the Canes’ tryline, but won a tighthead at the ensuing scrum. Michael Hooper swooped on the loose ball and emerged from a pile of bodies. The accurate goal-kicking boot of Holmes ensured that they made the lead five points instead of three.
The Brumbies flyhalf completed a memorable first start with a seven pointer moments later, and at 37-25, the game was over. The Canes attempted to close the gap in last 10 minutes but coughed up possession at the critical moment. In the end, a determined Brumbies defensive effort denied the Canes a losing bonus point.
The result sees the Brumbies consolidating their place at the top of the Australian conference and keeping the Reds at arm’s length. Following such a gutting loss at home, the Hurricanes should struggle to stay in the play-off race.