The CA Brumbies have defied the odds and a 12-year hoodoo to hand the top-of-the-table Sharks their first loss of the season in Durban tonight.
The visitors, who had not previously won at ABSA Stadium since the inception of Super 12/14 rugby, reversed their last round loss to the Cheetahs to defeat the Natal-based side 21-10.
The CA Brumbies silenced the crowd of 38,787 with some delectable early attacking rugby, running in two first-half tries on their way to a healthy 18-0 lead at the break.
CA Brumbies head coach Laurie Fisher said it was important for his side to bounce back from their last round defeat.
“It was good to pick ourselves up after a disappointing performance and a disappointing loss in Bloemfontein,” he said. “We’d worked hard this week. The side worked exceptionally hard individually and in their units studying the Sharks. We came up with what we needed to do to beat them and fortunately we were able to act it out tonight. It was a pleasing week and our first ever win here so we’re very, very happy.”
Fronting up against the in-form pack in the Investec Super 14, the CA Brumbies forwards were outstanding in nullifying the Sharks’ potent rolling maul and pick-and-drive.
Skipper George Smith, prop Guy Shepherdson and No.8 Stephen Hoiles were particularly aggressive and effective in their defence while Jone Tawake was the CA Brumbies’ ‘go to’ man in taking the ball forward for the Canberra-based side.
Despite missing regular captain Stirling Mortlock and his midfield partner Gene Fairbanks through injury, the CA Brumbies’ backline also fired, inspired by return of flyhalf Stephen Larkham from injury.
Fisher said he was pleased to see Larkham’s return to his starting XV.
“Stephen made some excellent decisions, some smart kicks and good organisation,” he said. “I was really pleased to see Stephen off the back of a month off play like that. It’s fantastic for his confidence which will help the team grow.”
The match was only one minute old when Hoiles regathered a Julian Huxley midfield bomb to send Tawake on his way to the try line, only to have the blindside flanker run down by Sharks flyer JP Pietersen.
The CA Brumbies only had to wait another minute for their first successful five-pointer when Huxley chased a Mark Gerrard grubber across the try line to score.
Huxley, who was awarded man-of-the-match honours on the back of a 16-point performance, added a further three points in the eighth minute after Shark Butch James was penalised for a late shoulder charge on opposing scrumhalf George Gregan.
Gregan rebounded to play his part in his side’s second try after finding Smith at first receiver who fed the ball inside to a storming Adam Wallace-Harrison who crossed in the left-hand corner. A late Huxley penalty goal rounded out the CA Brumbies’ 18-point half-time lead.
The second half was a direct contrast to the first, with the visitors deprived of a majority of possession and forced to knuckle down for an intense defensive effort.
The CA Brumbies’ determination to protect their line was demonstrated midway through the half when the Sharks won two consecutive lineouts five metres from the try line, twice constructed their much-renowned rolling maul and were twice denied by a desperate defensive line.
The home side gave their vocal crowd reason to cheer with one minute remaining when replacement inside centre Adrian Jacobs broke through to score a late consolation try.
Larkham, a foundation member of the CA Brumbies, said he was pleased to break through for his first Super Rugby win at ABSA Stadium.
“Our execution was excellent tonight, particularly in the first 20 minutes,” he said. “We’ve started pretty well in a couple of games now but haven’t been able to score points. What was very pleasing was that we were able to get across the try line and those plays came off. Defensively it was an unbelievable amount of effort that the forwards put in.”
CA Brumbies 21 (Julian Huxley, Adam Wallace-Harrison tries; Julian Huxley 3 penalty goals, conversion) defeated Sharks 10 (Adrian Jacobs try; Ruan Pienaar penalty goal, Butch James conversion) at ABSA Stadium.
Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)
Half time: CA Brumbies 18-0
1. Nic Henderson
2. Jeremy Paul
3. Guy Shepherdson
4. Adam Wallace-Harrison
5. Mark Chisholm
6. Jone Tawake
7. George Smith ©
8. Stephen Hoiles
9. George Gregan
10. Stephen Larkham
11. Mark Gerrard
12. Julian Huxley
13. Peter Playford
14. Clyde Rathbone
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper
16. Saia Faingaa
17. Salesi Ma’afu
18. Richard Stanford
19. Julian Salvi
20. Patrick Phibbs
21. Anthony Faingaa
22. Francis Fainifo
6. Jone Tawake replaced by 19. Julian Salvi (53rd minute)
2. Jeremy Paul replaced by 16. Saia Faingaa (62nd minute)
3. Guy Shepherdson replaced by 17. Salesi Ma’afu (62nd minute)
4. Adam Wallace-Harrison replaced by 18. Richard Stanford (68th minute)
9. George Gregan replaced by 20. Patrick Phibbs (78th minute)
11. Mark Gerrard replaced by 22. Francis Fainifo (78th minute)
13. Peter Playford replaced by 21. Anthony Faingaa (78th minute)
1. Deon Carstens
2. John Smit ©
3. BJ Botha
4. Johan Ackermann
5. Albert van den Berg
6. Warren Britz
7. AJ Venter
8. Jacques Botes
9. Ruan Pienaar
10. Butch James
11. JP Pietersen
12. Bradley Barritt
13. Waylon Murray
14. Odwa Ndungane
15. Francois Steyn
16. Bismarck du Plessis
17. Beast Mtawarira
18. Johann Muller
19. Bob Skinstad
20. Ryan Kankowski
21. Rory Kockott
22. Adrian Jacobs
Super 14 Week Nine
CA Brumbies v Lions at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Saturday, 31 March, 2007