CA Brumbies farewell Smith, Mortlock as winners

The CA Brumbies must win next weekend’s clash against the Crusaders to secure a place in the Investec Bank Super 14 finals following their bonus point 31-3 win over the Highlanders at Canberra Stadium tonight.

The five competition points elevate the ACT side into the top four with the CA Brumbies looking after their ‘points difference’ by denying their opposition a try for the second consecutive week.

Tonight’s win capped off an emotional night at Canberra Stadium, with the CA Brumbies’ public farewelling club legends Stirling Mortlock and George Smith. While Mortlock was unable to take part in the match due to a back injury, Smith showed no ill effects of the shoulder ailment that sidelined him for the past five matches. The openside flanker, who will play overseas following the 2010 Investec Bank Super 14 season, received a standing ovation as he took the field and left the field to the same reception when he was replaced by Colby Faingaa in the 74th minute.

Flyhalf Matt Toomua made a successful return from a knee injury suffered against the Cheetahs, scoring the decisive fourth try to seal the bonus point in the 78th minute. The touchdown was a highlight in the young playmaker’s man-of-the-match performance, which also included several telling linebreaks and an outstanding partnership with inside centre Matt Giteau, who enjoyed a flawless night off the kicking tee with four conversions and a penalty goal.

CA Brumbies Head Coach Andy Friend said while he admired his side’s patience in scoring the fourth try, they face a stiff challenge against the Crusaders next Friday.

“We like to keep everyone on the edge of their seat,” he said. “We got the bonus point in the end which is what we wanted and it was a good performance to back up last week’s performance.

“[Next week’s game] is a tough game but it’s a tough competition. We just spoke about our destiny being in our own hands now. We’ve got a six-day turnaround, head across to Christchurch and play a very good Crusaders side.”

The CA Brumbies broke the nil-all deadlock in the 13th minute when flanker Rocky Elsom took a lineout ball seven metres from the Highlanders’ try line and hit and spun his way through three defenders to score.

A Stephen Hoiles bust two minutes later again gave his side field position in the Highlanders’ quarter which eventually allowed Salesi Ma’afu to dive over from the base of the ruck for his second try of the season.

Trailing 14-0, the visitors’ best opportunity for a first half try came when lock Josh Bekhuis found himself on the end of the Highlanders backline and set sail for the corner only to be bailed into touch by a desperate cover tackle by fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Giteau and Highlanders fullback each added Israel Dagg added a penalty goals for their respective sides in the final five minutes of the half with the CA Brumbies taking a 17-3 advantage at the break.

Seven minutes into the second term, Toomua broke through the defensive line with quick hands from Ben Alexander and a pop ball off the ground from Giteau allowing scrumhalf Josh Valentine to swan dive under the posts.

Leading 24-3 and desperate to record a fourth try, the CA Brumbies’ cause was aided when Dagg was handed a yellow card for playing the ball in an offside position. However, in the final 30 minutes, the CA Brumbies were denied four tries with Stephen Moore called back for an obstruction, Ben Alexander ruled to have progressed the ball while on the ground, Jerry Yanuyanutawa judged to be held up over the line and Tyrone Smith stepping and powering his way through the defensive line only to lose control of the ball five metres from the line.

While it may have been a while coming, the try did come for the CA Brumbies two minutes from full time. Taking advantage of a lineout deep in the Highlanders’ half, the CA Brumbies rolled a maul to within five metres of the line to allow Toomua to dummy his way over the line.

The CA Brumbies head to Christchurch on Wednesday ahead of their do-or-die encounter with the Crusaders at AMI Stadium on Friday (14 May).

CA Brumbies 31 (Rocky Elsom, Salesi Ma’afu, Josh Valentine, Matt Toomua tries; Matt Giteau 4/4 conversions, 1/1 penalty goal) defeated Highlanders 3 (Israel Dagg 1/1 penalty goals) at Canberra Stadium, Canberra.
Half time: CA Brumbies 17-3
Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)
Crowd: 16,217

CA Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore
3. Salesi Ma’afu
4. Mitchell Chapman
5. Mark Chisholm
6. Rocky Elsom
7. George Smith
8. Stephen Hoiles (c)
9. Josh Valentine
10. Matt Toomua
11. Andrew Smith
12. Matt Giteau
13. Tyrone Smith
14. Pat McCabe
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper

16. Huia Edmonds
17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa
18. Ben Hand
19. Colby Faingaa
20. Patrick Phibbs
21. Brackin Karauria-Henry
22. Ed Stubbs

18. Ben Hand for 4 Mitchell Chapman (67th minute)
17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa for 1. Ben Alexander (67th minute)
20. Patrick Phibbs for 9. Josh Valentine (71st minute)
16. Huia Edmonds for 2. Stephen Moore (71st minute)
19. Colby Faingaa for 7. George Smith (74th minute)
22. Ed Stubbs for 10. Matt Giteau (79th minute)

1. Chris King
2. Jason Rutledge
3. Bronson Murray
4. Josh Bekhuis
5. Hayden Triggs
6. Adam Thomson
7. Alando Soakai
8. Steven Setephano
9. Jimmy Cowan (c)
10. Mat Berquist
11. Fetu’u Vainikolo
12. Jason Shoemark
13. Ben Smith
14. James Paterson
15. Israel Dagg

16. Peter Mirrielees
17. Keith Cameron
18. Joe Tuineau
19. John Hardie
20. Scott Cowan
21. Robbie Robinson
22. Jayden Hayward


Yellow Card
Israel Dagg (49th minute)

Investec Bank Super 14: Week 14
CA Brumbies v Crusaders
AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Friday, 14 May 2010

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