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The Blues have been kept try-less for the first time this season as the University of Canberra Brumbies stormed to a commanding 26-9 win to stay top of the Australian Conference.
A double from Man of the Match Pat McCabe and Robbie Coleman’s sixth in as many games sealed the win for the home team, who absorbed plenty of attacking flair from the competition’s highest try-scorers.
Minus stars like Stephen Moore, David Pocock and Scott Sio, the UC Brumbies forward pack stood up with back-up hookers Siliva Siliva and Josh Mann-Rea both having big games.
Jesse Mogg and Joe Tomane were outstanding under the high ball, while McCabe, Matt Toomua and later Christian Lealiifano caused havoc with the ball closer to the ruck.
The line-out worked hard all night and didn’t disappoint while the scrum was also an area where the UC Brumbies managed to get plenty of pay.
Director of Rugby Laurie Fisher said it was satisfying to see his side execute the game plan so seamlessly.
“After last week where we weren’t perfect, we got our planning right, we got our detail right and as a consequence of that we got our performance right,” Fisher said.
“There’s probably a lesson all round, we responded well tonight, certainly I’m pleased with how we turned out tonight. I thought it was an outstanding effort from the lads.
“It’s what this team’s been built on over the last few years: working together, scrapping together and making it work together. It was certainly evident in our performance tonight.
“There’s a lot of pride in the team, getting so close to the end and not letting in a try there was fantastic.”
The Blues looked sharp early, pinning the UC Brumbies back in their own half for the opening 10 minutes. Despite struggling to get over the advantage line, they held the ball and made slow progress towards the UC Brumbies line.
Clearing kicks from Jesse Mogg eased the pressure on the UC Brumbies throughout the game, none coming timelier than in the first 15 minutes which turned the flow of the match in the UC Brumbies favour.
Looking dangerous early with two quality line breaks, McCabe was the first to score after finding his way through the defence from 10 metres out. Nic White kicked the UC Brumbies ahead to 7-0 with the conversion and the home team had managed to turn the momentum into points.
Both sides traded penalties over the next half an hour, with White managing to move the UC Brumbies ahead by 10 while keeping the Canberra-based team camped well within the Blues territory.
Typical of a wet-weather game the ball spent plenty of time in the air, Jesse Mogg managing to defuse all but two of the Blues plethora of bombs that came down as heavy as the rain which fell on the nation’s capital throughout the day.
Blues fly-half Simon Hickey kicked penalties either side of half time to bring the visitors back into the game at 13-9, but a screaming overlap which found McCabe lurking on the left flank handed the Wallabies centre his first brace of tries and his team a 9-point buffer with 28 minutes to play.
The UC Brumbies were able to capitalise on more opportunities than their opponents, with Robbie Coleman taking advantage of a second huge overlap to score in the same corner as McCabe, the lead moving out to 23-9 with 22 minutes left.
White landed a final penalty inside the last five minutes, and despite some heavy pressure from the Blues the UC Brumbies managed to keep the Auckland native try-less and surge to their best win of 2014, 26-9.
UC Brumbies 26 (Pat McCabe 2, Robbie Coleman tries; Nic White conversion; White 2, Christian Lealiifano penalties) bt Blues 9 (Simon Hickey 3 penalties) at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Referee: Rohan Hoffmann. Crowd: 7129.
1. JP Smith (replaced by Ruaidhri Murphy)
2. Siliva Siliva (replaced by Josh Mann-Rea)
3. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Scott Fardy
5. Sam Carter (replaced by Jack Whetton)
6. Jordan Smiler (replaced by Lachlan McCaffrey)
7. Jarrad Butler
8. Ben Mowen ©
9. Nic White (replaced by Conrad Hoffmann)
10. Matt Toomua (replaced by Christian Lealiifano)
11. Robbie Coleman
12. Pat McCabe
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Joe Tomane (replaced by Andrew Smith, blood)
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Andrew Smith)
16. Josh Mann-Rea
17. Ruan Smith
18. Ruaidhri Murphy
19. Jack Whetton
20. Lachlan McCaffrey
21. Conrad Hoffmann
22. Andrew Smith (replaced by Joe Tomane)
23. Christian Lealiifano