Brumbies fire then falter

RYAN VREDE reports on the Australian derby that saw the Brumbies fall asleep after an impressive first half but still hold on for a 28-17 victory over the Force.

The Brumbies advanced their cause to top the Australian conference with a bonus-point victory in which they completely outplayed their hosts for 40 minutes. They had banked four tries before the break, exploiting some woeful defending from the Force, who routinely fell off tackles they should have made.

The Brumbies’ dominance of the gainline was at the root of the Perth team’s defensive struggles. They regularly bossed the collisions, eroding the Force’s resistance through powerful phase play. From there they stung through their back division, creating mismatches and confusion in a scattered line.

When the Force did have possession they used it poorly. Never able to establish a platform to consistently threaten on attack, the Force often went lateral in their play or kicked poorly in the face of advancing defenders. The Brumbies profited from one such misjudged punt, Jessie Mogg finishing a move that saw them strike from broken field.

The Brumbies were clinical in converting chances they created thereafter, Ben Alexander, Henry Speight and Holmes all crossing the whitewash. Zack Holmes would miss the conversions on each occasion and a hooked penalty attempt earlier meant the Brumbies’ 22-0 half-time lead should have been even more comfortable.

However, when Nick Cummins struck twice after the restart it appeared as if those misses could prove crucial in the final analysis. But the Brumbies regrouped well, slowing the game to their pace and controlling its flow. The Force hadn’t looked capable of replicating their earlier success but then burst into life, scoring through Toby Lynn to set up a tense final 10 minutes.

The Brumbies’ rebuttal was adequate. They drove down into the Force’s territory and sunk a penalty that took them 11 points ahead, enough of a buffer for them to feel confident of holding out for.

Coach Jake White won’t be pleased about the lethargy his charges displayed in the second half. A better side would have punished them. But they’ll take these five points, crucial in the context of their conference, and will march into Sydney next weekend confident of taking a massive step to a home semi-final with victory over the Waratahs.