4/16/2006

Brumbies fall to Waratahs



The CA Brumbies have conceded 23 unanswered second half points to fall to their second defeat of the season in tonight's blockbuster Australian derby clash with the Waratahs at Aussie Stadium.

The Brumbies raced to an early lead through tries to captain Stirling Mortlock and Adam Wallace-Harrison but suffered a huge blow when majestic playmaker Stephen Larkham left the field with a hamstring injury early in the first half.

A near capacity crowd of 36,656 turned out on Easter Sunday expecting a classic confrontation between the two great Australian rivals, and were treated to a physical and open contest.

The Waratahs scored through Sam Norton-Knight on the stroke of half-time to go into the break at 14-a-piece with the Brumbies, before running in three second half tries to seal a 37-14  victory.

The Brumbies made a determined start to the match and were by far the dominant team in the opening thirty minutes, however an error-riddled second half performance allowed the Waratahs to run away with the match.

The Brumbies opened the scoring in just the fourth minute when Stirling Mortlock dived on a George Smith grubber into the in-goal in the right hand corner for the opening try.

Mortlock's sideline conversion made it 7-0 before Peter Hewat posted the first points for the home side with a penalty goal from in front of the posts after George Smith was penalised for hands in the ruck.

Minutes later, the Brumbies suffered a massive blow when Larkham injured his hamstring while stretching to recieve a pass, the star flyhalf falling to the ground after throwing the pass before walking off and replaced by Gene Fairbanks.

The Brumbies continued strongly without their primary play-caller, Fairbanks getting immediately into the action when he made a diving tackle on Waratah No.8 David Lyons, foiling a certain try.

The Waratahs drew closer with Hewat's second penalty goal in the 18th minute before the Brumbies struck again.

Fairbanks charged-down a Sam Norton-Knight kick, regathering it in the air which lead to a strong 30m run from fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper to march the Brumbies deep into Waratahs territory.

Ashley-Cooper was caught by a covering tackle from Norton-Knight before popping the ball behind him on the ground, where Adam Wallace-Harrison, making his second start at number 8 for the Brumbies, scooped up the loose ball and crashed over the try-line for his first career five-pointer.

Some big hitting from both sides played a part in the first half spectacle. Jeremy Paul was dazed after a collision with Waratahs winger Wendell Sailor, while Sailor himself was dumped in a text-book driving tackle from Stirling Mortlock minutes later.

Hewat kicked his third penalty goal three minutes out from the break after george Smith was penalised again for killing the ruck. Smith was warned for his repeat infringments by referee George Ayoub before Hewat closed the gap to 14-9.

Former Brumby Norton-Knight then levelled the scores when he sped around Ashley-Cooper to dive on a ball that was grubbered through by Waratahs winger Lote Tuqiri.

Norton-Knight appeared disappointed at his grounding of the ball before the TMO confirmed he made downward pressure on the ball and awarded the try.

The Waratahs launched several attacking raids to start the second half, each of which were difused by some stubbourn Brumbies defence.

Hewat gave the homeside their first lead for the night with his fourth penalty in the 52nd minute, before the Waratahs broke the game open with a try to Lote Tuqiri.

Tuqiri steamed onto a cut out pass from Mat Rogers which skipped two players, allowing Tuqiri on the outside of his opposite Clyde Rathbone to score on the left hand side of the field.

Smith was penalised again in the 64th minute to give Hewat his fifth penalty goal to extend the NSW lead to 27-14.

Needing to try something different to break the Waratahs defensive line with time running down, Mark Gerrard tried a chip kick which was plucked from the air by Waratahs replacement back Shaun Berne, who charged 25m down field before finding Morgan Turinui backing up on the inside to score the third try for the victors.

To add insult to injury, the home team added a fourth try and bonus point in the 36th minute when Rocky Elsom collected a loose ball and ran fifteen metres to score the try.

After producing one of their best first half perfromances of the season, the Brumbies performance was rail-roaded by an ill-disciplined second half showing.

"I thought our communication really let us down in the second half," said skipper Stirling Mortlock following his team's seond defeat of the season.

"Losing Stephen early in the match didn't help us but we really let ourselves down by making too many errors in the second half, compared to the Waratahs who hardly made any throughout the match."

George Smith was awarded Man of the Match in a well-beaten team. Mortlock's first half try was his sixth for the season.

The Brumbies wore their traditional white jersey with navy saddle to mark the Australian derby.

Waratahs 37 (Sam Norton-Knight, Lote Tuqiri, Morgan Turinui, Rocky Elsom tries; Peter Hewat conversion, 5 penalty goals) defeated CA Brumbies 14 (Stirling Mortlock, Adam Wallace-Harrison tries; Mortlock 2 conversions) at Aussie Stadium,Sydney, AUS.