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The University of Canberra Brumbies season has been stopped just one game short of the Super Rugby Final after falling to the Waratahs 26-8 in the Semi-Final showdown billed as the domestic game of the season.
Having both claimed a win each in 2014, the game provided not only a chance at the title, but overall bragging rights in one of Australia’s most keenly followed derbies.
Hungry for their first title crack since the development of Super Rugby from Super 14, the Waratahs were in everything, took all their opportunities and defended their line valiantly.
In his final game for the UC Brumbies, skipper Ben Mowen said he was disappointed with the result.
“That’s not the way we wanted to finish our season. The Waratahs deserve to go through they were more clinical than us tonight,” Mowen said.
“It’s been a pleasure playing with these guys for the last three years. This is a special group, we are proud of what we have achieved this year but sadly, we’ll never know if we could have been good enough to have a crack at the title.”
Keeping with the rhythm of the first 15 minutes, a loose ball found its way off the ground into Alofa Alofa’s hands, the speedster hitting the gas and running 50 to give his side an early advantage, 5-0.
Bernard Foley added three points 10 minutes later, and the Waratahs were in control 8-0 heading into the 20-minute mark.
Momentum and chance all stayed in the Waratahs favour for the first quarter of the match, the visitors afforded very few chances at points. But at the 25 minute mark the UC Brumbies found themselves in Waratahs territory with a huge chance to build pressure.
Three penalties, two five-metre lineouts and 15 cool heads eventually prevailed for the UC Brumbies who provided Henry Speight with an overlap and trot to the right-hand corner.
The kick was away but with another shot in-front of the posts just five minutes later, the UC Brumbies had drawn level, 8-8 with a minute until the break.
Disappointingly it was the Waratahs who had the final say of the half, the UC Brumbies penalised for playing the ball on the ground in front of the sticks sending the home team to the break, up 11-8.
The UC Brumbies had a golden chance to level from right in front just minutes into the second half but it was again wide, the Waratahs maintaining their advantage into the 47th minute, when a strip to Beale saw the Wallaby streak away, putting his side out to a 16-8 lead, kick to come.
The UC Brumbies had a golden chance to sneak back into the game, enterprising play from Speight, Tevita Kuridrani and Pat McCabe leading to Coleman finding space on his wing. But the Queanbeyan native couldn’t collect a pass that was slightly behind him, the ball spilling into touch.
The UC Brumbies were not without their chances – the visitors spent the majority of the second half camped within the Waratahs 40. But brutal defence from the Waratahs, in particular Potgieter, kept the UC Brumbies from scoring.
With just minutes remaining it was Foley who drove the final nails in the UC Brumbies 2014-season coffin – first with a penalty, then quality try and conversion to make it 26-8 at fulltime.
Waratahs 26 (Bernard Foley, Alofa Alofa, Kurtley Beale tries; Foley con; pens 3) bt UC Brumbies 8 (Henry Speight try; Christian Lealiifano pen) at Allianz Stadium, Sydney. Crowd: 38,800. Referee: Jaco Peyper.
1. Scott Sio
2. Josh Mann-Rea (replaced by Ruaidhri Murphy)
3. Ben Alexander
4. Leon Power (replaced by Fotu Auelua)
5. Sam Carter
6. Scott Fardy
7. Jarrad Butler
8. Ben Mowen ©
9. Nic White
10. Matt Toomua
11. Robbie Coleman
12. Christian Lealiifano
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight (replaced by Joe Tomane)
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Pat McCabe)
16. Ruaidhri Murphy
17. Ruan Smith
18. Allan Alaalatoa
19. Fotu Auelua
20. Tom McVerry
21. Michael Dowsett
22. Joe Tomane
23. Pat McCabe