Brumbies too good for Tahs

SIMON BORCHARDT reports on the Brumbies’ 23-6 win against the Waratahs in Canberra that extended their lead at the top of the Australian conference.

Jake White’s side, who have a bye next week, are now nine points ahead of the Waratahs on the Super Rugby log and 10 ahead of the Reds, who play the Crusaders in Christchurch on Sunday. A play-off spot is now theirs to lose.

The Brumbies’ sixth win of the season was a clinical one. They dominated the breakdown, with Michael Hooper again excelling, defended well, and constantly attacked the advantage line from set pieces through flyhalf Christian Lealiifano. The Waratahs, meanwhile, had 60% of the ball but spent most of the match inside their own half. They couldn’t get out of it because they weren’t prepared to play a kicking game and their backline attacks were largely ineffective because they didn’t play with enough width.

The Waratahs dominated possession in the first half, but it was the Brumbies who went into the break with a 13-6 lead thanks to a try from Henry Speight after the hooter. The hosts had taken the ball through 11 phases before sending it wide to the winger, who seemed to have no room to move next to the right-hand touchline. But outstanding footwork saw Speight brush off Berrick Barnes’ poor tackle and then step inside past another two defenders to score.

The Brumbies struck again early in the second half when they kicked a penalty into the Waratahs’ 22, won the lineout and bashed away at the tryline with their forwards. Eventually, after 15 phases, the ball went out to outside centre Andrew Smith, whose try made it 20-6.

A Lealiifano penalty gave the Brumbies a 17-point cushion with 10 minutes to go, and while they were reduced to 14 men shortly after, when captain Ben Mowen was yellow carded for a professional foul, it didn’t prevent them from finishing the game strongly.