The University of Canberra Brumbies have struck hard at their closest rival, the NSW Waratahs on Saturday night walking away 28-23 winners at GIO Stadium.
Just over 17,000 people turned up to see the grudge match, which was entertaining from start to finish with tries, breaks, heavy defence and plenty of spite.
Two yellow cards in the second half threatened to let the Waratahs off the hook, but belief and effort paid off for the UC Brumbies who now sit equal on top of the table.
On a down note Henry Speight left the field in his 50th match with what appeared to be a possible broken jaw. The Fijian flyer will have x-rays do determine the damage on Sunday.
“The belief in this team has been building for a bit over two years now and I think you saw some of that determination out there tonight,” Director of Rugby Laurie Fisher said.
“They came hard at us in the second half and I was pleased with the way the team stuck together and dug in for one another.
“It doesn’t get any easier next week and we will need to lift that intensity of we are going to beat the Stormers.”
Top shelf tries to Jesse Mogg and Nic White highlighted the first half, with Tevita Kuridrani adding a third to clinch the match midway through second stanza.
The opening exchanges consisted of penalty shots to give the Waratahs a 6-3 lead after 10 minutes. Folau made a break early, as did Adam Ashley-Cooper, but the UC Brumbies managed to hold the visitors try-less for the first forty minutes.
A huge touch finder from Mogg gave the UC Brumbies some ascendency, White capitalising on the opportunity with a clever dummy to score next to the posts.
Five minutes later the UC Brumbies were in again, Mogg kicking, regathering and blitzing past Peter Betham and Folau to score in the corner.
Heading to the sheds 20-9 up the UC Brumbies looked comfortable but not safe and would need a bigger effort in the second half.
The second 40 opened with pace as both sides probed deep looking for opportunities. With the Waratahs now 200 consecutive minutes without a try at GIO Stadium, the UC Brumbies twisted the knife as Ben Alexander screamed through into space before laying the ball up for Tevita Kuridrani to grab his second in as many weeks.
The kick was away but the UC Brumbies held a commanding lead at 25-9 with 25 minutes to play.
With Toomua yellow carded for not rolling away the Waratahs lifted, former Brumby Michael Hooper collecting a nice ball from Nick Phipps to reach out and break his side’s try-scoring drought.
It looked like they’d go again just five minutes later, but Wycliff Palu was ruled to be held up leaving the difference at 9 points, 25-16 with 10 minutes to play.
More pressure mounted on the UC Brumbies when replacement prop, Ruan Smith was yellow carded, the Waratahs mounting endless waves of attack before Israel Folau scored his sixth try in three games to keep the Tahs in the contest.
Foley landed the conversion from the sideline and the Waratahs were just two points down with 5 minutes left in the match. A penalty edged the UC Brumbies further ahead towards the final five minutes, which ticked along towards a third win on the trot for the Canberra based team.
UC Brumbies 28 (Nic White, Jesse Mogg, Ben Alexander tries; Nic White 2 conversions, 2 penalties) bt NSW Waratahs 23 (Michael Hooper, Israel Folau tries; Bernard Foley 3 penalties, 2 conversions) at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night. Referee: Jaco Peyper. Crowd: 17,016.
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Scott Sio (replaced by Jean-Pierre Smith)
2. Stephen Moore
3. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Leon Power (replaced by Lachlan McCaffrey)
5. Sam Carter
6. Scott Fardy
7. Jarrad Butler (replaced by Jordan Smiler)
8. Ben Mowen (c)
9. Nic White
10. Matt Toomua
11. Robbie Coleman
12. Pat McCabe
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight (replaced by Andrew Smith)
15. Jesse Mogg
16. Josh Mann-Rea
17. Ruan Smith
18. Jean-Pierre Smith
19. Jordan Smiler
20. Lachlan McCaffrey (replaced by Ben Alexander)
21. Andrew Smith
22. Michael Dowsett
23. Lionel Cronje