RYAN VREDE reports on a low quality match in which the Blues won 30-16 to potentially spoil the Brumbies’ play-off plans.
The Reds now have the incentive of beating the Waratahs with a bonus point in Brisbane, which would see them top the Australian conference. The Brumbies face a difficult path through the play-offs, but it is nothing more than they deserve after this diabolical performance.
Jake White has forged his side into a tough-to-beat opponent, but today one of the hallmarks of his sides, brutal and accurate defence, was sorely lacking. The Blues were allowed to play an expansive style that troubled their hosts, and one which saw them open a 14-0 lead and later go into the break 21-13 ahead.
The Brumbies simply could not halt the Blues carriers’ momentum at the gainline, which compromised their ruck contest. As a result the Blues were able to recycle quickly and consistently attack an unset defensive line. They showed good spacial awareness when shifting the ball wide and some deft touches in doing so.
They struck twice in six minutes, the first after a sweeping multi-phase move that culminated in Liaki Moli scoring, while the second saw Daniel Braid finish a high-speed counter-attack. Piri Weepu converted on both occasions.
The Brumbies rallied well, a moment of individual brilliance from Henry Speight, who broke blind and sliced through the defensive line en route to the line, supplemented by a conversion and three penalties getting them back into contention. But the Blues struck a telling blow just before half-time, Hadleigh Parks rounding off a move that featured an excellent inter-change of passing. Weepu banked the extras for a eight-point lead going down the tunnel.
Jessie Mogg landed a three pointer shortly after the restart, but the Brumbies continued to look rudderless on attack, exhibiting none of the patience and tactical intelligence that has been the outstanding quality of their campaign to date.
Two Weepu penalties took the Blues out to a 11-point lead going into the final quarter as torrential rain began to belt down. You sensed the conditions would suit the more pragmatic Brumbies, but the test for them was not allowing their desperation to force them into cavalier attacks. However, that is precisely what happened, with uncharacteristically accurate and physical defence from the Blues contributing to the Brumbies’ struggle.
The Blues weathered an extended period of pressure then put the Brumbies out of their misery with a late penalty. This result confirmed the weakness of the Australian conference. That its leaders get comprehensively done by one of the tournament’s weakest team is indefensible.
The Brumbies will still make the play-offs, but they may have to travel for a quarter-final. On the evidence of their form on the road against elite opposition, it is difficult to see them progressing beyond that. They will hope not to, and will undoubtedly be the Waratahs’ biggest cheerleaders later today.