4/22/2006

Brumbies win cliffhanger over Hurricanes


The CA Brumbies have scored a confidence-building 21-16 win over the Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium tonight.

Playing without backline stars Stephen Larkham and Matt Giteau, the home side produced one of their best defensive efforts of the season to hold off the late finishing Hurricanes to secure their position in the competition's top four.

The brilliant Brumbies defence cracked only once in the match, when Super 14's leading tryscorer Lome Fa'atau scored in the 71st minute to put the Hurricanes within two points, however the home team's two first half tries were enough to secure the win.

Stirling Mortlock and George Gregan scored tries for the Brumbies, while Mortlock's three penalty goals secured one of the most telling Brumbies victories of the year.

The Brumbies started in stunning fashion when new centre combination Joel Wilson and Stirling Mortlock combined for the first try.

Attacking 12 metres out from the Hurricanes line, Mortlock found a charging Wilson on his outside, who burst through an attempted tackle from Hurricanes prop Neemia Tialata before finding Mortlock backing up on the inside to dive over for his seventh try of the season.

Mortlock extended the Brumbies lead 10 minutes later with a penalty goal from 40 metres out and eight metres in from the left touch line to make it 10-0 to the home side nearing the half-way point of the first half.

It was a physical first half display typical of both teams but it was the Brumbies who played the more adventerous rugby of the first period.

The Hurricanes failed to capitalise on a bulk of possession in attacking territory but they were able to bridge the gap to 7 points with a David Holwell penalty goal after Adam Wallace-Harrison was penalised for a high shot on Hurricanes captain Rodney So'oialo.

The Brumbies then strengthened their lead with a powerful forwards try.

Alister Campbell won the ball from a lineout 10 metres out from the Hurricanes line before the Brumbies driving maul pushed the Hurricanes into their in-goal area.

Jeremy Paul, who was dazed by an earlier collision with Hurricanes flanker Jerry Collins, attempted to ground the ball at the back of the maul before having it knocked out of his hands for George Gregan to touch down on the loose ball to score a opportunistic try in the right corner.

Mortlock's sideline conversion hit the right upright, leaving the Brumbies lead at 15-3 with 6 minutes remaining in the first half.

The Hurricanes added a second penalty when George Smith was penalised for hands in the ruck but the Brumbies went into the break holding a healthy 15-6 lead.

The second half produced a defensive struggle as both teams attacked the breakdown, pressuring the opposition into mistakes.

The Hurricanes drew nearer with a Holwell penalty goal in the 53rd minute, before Mortlock kicked his second penalty to give the home team an 18-9 advantage at the mid-way point.

Brumbies head coach Laurie Fisher showed faith in his starting forwards, who turned on their most dominant performance of the season against the more fancied Hurricanes starting eight.

He made just one change in the forwards, bringing prop Guy Shepherdson on for Nic Henderson in the 54th minute.

The Hurricanes set up a thrilling final ten minutes when Lome Fa'atau got a superb bounce from a Piri Weepu grubber kick, putting them within two points of the lead.

Mortlock's third penalty goal made it 21-16 with six minutes to play but it was the Hurricanes who went on the attack in the countdown to full time.

In the end a loose ball from the Hurricanes backs picked up by Mark Gerrard, before Ben Batger, who had entered the field just seconds earlier after fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper was taken from the field with an ankle injury, booted the ball into touch to close the match.

The back-row trio of Heenan, Smith and Wallace-Harrison shone against the Hurricanes All Black trio - makeshift No 8 Wallace-Harrison named Man of the Match.

Others who impressed for the Brumbies included inside centre Joel Wilson, who was outstanding in attack and defence filling in for the injured Matt Giteau, and Mark Gerrard, who continued his run of good form with a tremendous effort cleaning up from the back of the field with a pin-point kicking game.

CA Brumbies 21(Stirling Mortlock, George Gregan tries; Mortlock conversion, 3 penalty goals) defeated Hurricanes 16 (Lome Fa'atau try; Jimmy Gopperth conversion; David Holwell 3 penalty goals) at Canberra Stadium, Canberra, AUS