Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Having dominated much of the first half, two converted tries conceded either side of the break saw the HSBC Waratahs slump to a disappointing 23-6 loss to an on-form Brumbies side in a chilly Canberra Stadium tonight.
Having traded penalties twice in the first period, a converted Brumbies try on the first whistle and another just five minutes into the second period left the HSBC Waratahs chasing a game they looked earlier to have been in control of and leaves Michael Foley’s men with significant ground to recover if they are to keep alive any hope of a place in the finals.
“The result puts them two wins ahead, clearly that’s a lot of ground to make up and we don’t have much time,” admitted the Head Coach. “All we can do now is focus on the things that we do have control of and that’s our performances.”
Two areas the team will need to address before next week’s big clash against the Bulls are ball security and defence, with loose passes and defensive lapses proving costly against a patient and opportunistic Brumbies side.
“‘There were six occasions in the first half where we were attacking but gave the ball to the opposition,” said the Head Coach afterwards.
Having held the scores level until the 40th minute, poor defence out wide allowed the Brumbies in for the first try of the game, the first seven of the 17 unanswered points they went on to concede.
Referring to the try by winger Henry Speight, Foley admitted, “We had three clear opportunities to stop the ball carrier but we didn’t. If you don’t make tackles, you are going to concede tries.”
Despite the end result, the match started well for the visitors, who made line breaks through Kane Douglas and Tatafu Polota-Nau in Brumbies’ territory, only to give the ball away in their eagerness to offload. Despite barely seeing the ball in the first 10 minutes, it was the Brumbies who opened the scoring, flyhalf Christian Lealilifano slotting a penalty two minutes after scrum half Nic White missed an earlier opportunity. A second penalty chance for Brendan McKibbin squared the scores on 18 minutes, after the Brumbies infringed at a ruck.
By the end of the first quarter, it was clear both teams intended on taking it to the other but a number of executional errors prevented either from capitalising. A soft penalty for failing to roll away at the ruck gifted the Brumbies a second three points on 27 minutes, before an identical offence at the other end of the park allowed the visitors to draw level. The intensity of the collisions looked to have claimed a first casualty when flanker Jono Jenkins went down and although he was able to play on, Polota-Nau was not so lucky, leaving the field after 31 minutes after a heavy knock to the head.
The HSBC Wararahs had a chance to go ahead with a scrum in the left hand corner in the 39th minute, only for the ball to become unplayable. Less than 60 seconds later, the Brumbies had their chance, when a break from Henry Speight down a narrow right-hand blindside saw him first evade Berrick Barnes and, with a step, wrong-foot Adam Ashley-Cooper and Peter Betham, allowed the winger to run in the first try of the match with the final play of the first period. Lealilifano’s conversion extended the half time score to 13-6.
Despite repelling at least nine close-range attempts at their line from the restart, the NSW defence eventually capitulated when the Brumbies widened the point of attack, allowing outside centre Andrew Smith to dive over out wide and Lealilifano to convert just five minutes into the period.
Two scores behind, Foley backed his bench to recapture some momentum, replacing Douglas, Palu, McKibbin, Sitaleki Timani and Kingston with Dean Mumm, Lopeti Timani, Sarel Pretorius, Rocky Elsom and Daniel Halangahu before the 65th minute, reshuffling the pack and adjusting the back line.
The HSBC Waratahs needed a break and they got it when Lealilifano’s third penalty attempt found the upright and the bounce allowed the visitors to mount a 60m counter attack. But once again, they spilled the ball in contact, as Tom Carter coughed it up and allowed the Brumbies to send back into their own 22. A successful penalty goal for Lealilifano extended the score to 23-6 on 72 minutes.
A 76th minute yellow card for Brumbies' captain Ben Mowen reduced the home side’s number and although Elsom, in his first match against his old team mates, came close with a break down the left side, the visitors were unable to add to their tally, leaving them with plenty to work on before Friday’s match against the Bulls.
Next Friday, the HSBC Waratahs are back home to take on the Bulls on Heritage Night at Allianz Stadium in a match that celebrates ‘The Downing of the ‘Boks’, one of the greatest moments in NSW Rugby history. To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the famous 1937 NSW victory over the touring Springboks, the HSBC Waratahs will next weekend wear a specially-commissioned, limited edition heritage jersey. Traditionally, the Friday night fixture has proved particularly popular with the HSBC Waratahs’ city-based fans, who come across in droves to enjoy an after-work evening of action-packed footy. Tickets for the match, which kicks off at 7.40pm on Friday, May 11 at Allianz Stadium, are available online from Ticketek priced from $20 for adults, $10 for juniors and $50 for a family of four. Full match day information and details of how to get hold of the unique jersey are available via the Waratahs website under the match day tab
Brumbies 23 (tries: Speight, Smith; pens: Lealilifano 3 ; cons: Lealilifano 2) d HSBC Waratahs 6 (pens: McKibbin 2) at Canberra Stadium.
Half-time: Brumbies 13 – 6 HSBC Waratahs
HSBC Waratahs: 15. Adam Ashley-Cooper (Northern Suburbs), 14. Atieli Pakalani (Southern Districts), 13. Tom Kingston (Sydney University), 12. Tom Carter (Sydney University), 11. Peter Betham (Sydney University), 10. Berrick Barnes (Sydney University), vice captain, 9. Brendan McKibbin (Eastern Suburbs), 8. Wycliff Palu (Manly), 7. Jono Jenkins (Sydney University), 6. Dave Dennis (Sydney University), 5. Kane Douglas (Southern Districts), 4. Sitaleki Timani (Southern Districts), 3. Sekope Kepu (Randwick), 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau (Parramatta), 1. Benn Robinson (Eastwood), captain
Replacements: 16. John Ulugia (Southern Districts), 17. Jeremy Tilse (Sydney University), 18. Dean Mumm (Sydney University), 19. Lopeti Timani (Southern Districts), 20. Rocky Elsom (Randwick), 21. Sarel Pretorius (Gordon), 22. Daniel Halangahu (Sydney University)
Brumbies: 15. Jesse Mogg, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Joe Tomane, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Nic White, 8. Fotu Auelua, 7. Michael Hooper, 6. Ben Mowen, captain, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Scott Fardy, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander
Replacements: 16. Anthony Hegarty, 17. Ruaidhri Murphy, 18. Peter Kimlin, 19. Ita Vaea, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Robbie Coleman, 22. Tevita Kuridrani
Yellow Cards: Ben Mowen (Brumbies)
Referee: Chris Pollock
His try in the final seconds of last year’s Derby clash secured victory for his new club against his old. This time around, Michael Foley has backed Sitaleki Timani to make a difference from the first minute, rewarding his impactful performances from the bench with a place in the starting XV.