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The UC Brumbies have been toppled by the Waratahs on Saturday as the competition front-runners claimed a bonus-point win, 39-8 in Sydney.
With 10 regulars ruled out through injury, it was never going to be easy for the UC Brumbies who had beaten the Waratahs during their March encounter this year but won just once in Sydney in the last decade.
It was the Waratahs biggest win over the UC Brumbies since the last round of the 2011 season and gave the Sydney-siders a leg-up to the Australian Champions trophy in 2014.
“This competition is incredibly close, everyone’s got to play everyone and while we don’t get to play for points next week we know that we’re still alive,” Captain Ben Mowen said.
“It was a tough night for us. They played incredibly well and we were probably just a bit off the pace which I think is evident on the scoreboard.”
An even contest for the first 10 minutes, both sides had chances within opposition’s halves, the UC Brumbies coming off the long boot of Jesse Mogg who was able to pin the Waratahs behind their last man in the right pocket.
Tevita Kuridrani left the field injured after 10 minutes thrusting Rod Iona into the fray for his first appearance at this level, the diminutive playmaker working hard early with his Vikings team mate Christian Lealiifano to make inroads in the Waratahs defensive line.
Sensing blood in the water, the Waratahs pounced and converted on the UC Brumbies changes to hold an early advantage. Benn Robinson ruined the bookies nights by earning first try-scorer rights from close range, while speedster Alofa Alofa made it two-Tah tries just five minutes later with an intercept, 70 metre effort.
Foley converted both tries and it was 14-0 Waratahs up after20 minutes.
Backs to the wall, the UC Brumbies responded with a classy try to Jesse Mogg, the fullback leaping over Israel Folau to collect a perfectly weighted Christian Lealiifano kick in the right corner.
The Waratahs and the UC Brumbies had chances to move ahead before the break, but neither side could claim points heading to the sheds 14-5.
The Waratahs added three more points just inside the second half for a scrum infringement, the UC Brumbies mountain getting harder to climb down 17-5 with 36 minutes to play.
Lealiifano pegged one back just three minutes later to make it 17-8, the UC Brumbies absorbing more pressure from the Waratahs through the inclusion of Will Skelton and the immergence of Folau.
Folau went close on several occasions, crossing the line only to be ruled held-up, carrying four men on his way to the line. But it was Foley who put the Waratahs out to an unassailable lead, scoring under the posts with 20 minutes to play and pushing the score to 24-8.
The Waratahs wrapped up a bonus point with 12 minutes to play when Alofa grabbed his second, but it was Cliff Palu who put the final nail in the coffin, scoring the Waratahs fifth on the siren handing the home side a 39-8 win.
Waratahs 39 (Alofa Alofa 2, Wycliff Palu, Bernard Foley, Benn Robinson tries; Foley 4 cons, pen; Kurtley Beale pen) bt UC Brumbies 8 (Jesse Mogg try; Christian Lealiifano pen) at ANZ Stadium, Sydney. Referee: Steve Walsh. Crowd: 29,500.
1. Scott Sio (replaced by JP Smith)
2. Ruaidhri Murphy (replaced by Luke Holmes)
3. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Scott Fardy
5. Leon Power (replaced by Jack Whetton)
6. Jordan Smiler (replaced by Fotu Auelua)
7. Jarrad Butler
8. Ben Mowen ©
9. Nic White (replaced by Michael Dowsett)
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Clyde Rathbone
12. Robbie Coleman
13. Tevita Kuridrani (replaced by Rod Iona)
14. Henry Speight
15. Jesse Mogg
16. Luke Holmes
17. Ruan Smith
18. JP Smith
19. Fotu Auelua
20. Jack Whetton
21. Michael Dowsett
22. Rodney Iona (replaced by Lionel Cronje)
23. Lionel Cronje