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The University of Canberra Brumbies have kept the Waratahs try-less at Canberra Stadium running out 23-6 winners to break a three year drought against their fiercest rivals.
The win was soured by the news that Christian Lealiifano has broken his ankle and will miss the rest of the season. It’s a massive blow for the University of Canberra Brumbies 10 who had almost certainly played his way into a Wallabies jersey with another commanding performance.
Lealiifano’s injury was the only blight on an otherwise dominating effort from the University of Canberra Brumbies in both attack and defence. A try to Andrew Smith just minutes after half time sealed the win and has cemented the team in first spot of the Australian Conference with a bye week coming up.
Head Coach Jake White said he had been impressed with the win but felt for his young fly-half.
“The bottom line is that’s it’s bad enough that he’s not going to be playing for the rest of the year. It’s just another challenge for this group and they now have to step up to the plate,” White said.
“I don’t think Christian would want us to harp on the fact that things are down or that it’s not ideal. When Matt (Toomua) was injured Christian just got on with it so that’s the attitude we need to adopt.
“He has gone through a difficult time with injury over the last couple of seasons so it’s not good for the boy, but he’ll be back.”
The match started with neither side giving anything away.
A crafty steal by Stephen Moore on Berrick Barnes and a try saving tackle from Pat McCabe were the highlights of the first 20 minutes, with both side’s scrumhalves adding the only points off the boot to have the match tied up and 3-3.
The University of Canberra Brumbies almost claimed the first five-pointer when Joe Tomane regathered a clever kick from Lealiifano and found open space but tripped, keeping the scores locked at 3-3 after 22 minutes played.
Against a pack regarded as one of the best in the competition, the University of Canberra Brumbies scrum was dominant wheeling the Waratahs back building momentum for the rest of the team to feed off.
But the highlight of the first came after the siren with Speight scoring what will almost certainly feature as one of the five-pointers of the season.
With just centimetre to move, the Fijian flyer made his way around Barnes and Peter Betham before wrong footing Adam Ashley-Cooper to claim an all important half-time lead for the University of Canberra Brumbies, 13-6.
Aware of how important it was to extend their half-time lead, the University of Canberra Brumbies came out firing in the second forty with the forwards mounting enormous pressure laying on phase after phase of inch-perfect attack.
And with the Waratahs needing numbers at the breakdown, scrumhalf White spotted space to his left sending Andrew Smith over for his third try in three games.
Lealiifano’s kick was successful giving the University of Canberra Brumbies a handy 20-6 lead with just over half an hour to play.
For the next 20 minutes the home side applied plenty of pressure but couldn’t manage to turn their chances into points. A lovely break to Smith off a clever McCabe ball had the crowd of 19,211 on its feet, but penalties and finishing touches halted momentum.
A penalty to Leallifano would be the final points of the game, giving the University of Canberra Brumbies a 23-6 lead with 13 minutes to play.
The Waratahs then enjoyed some momentum of their own, with skipper Ben Mowen earning a yellow card for foul play. In spite of the yellow, Mowen was again one of his side’s best, winning plenty of loose ball, carrying strongly and generally leading by example around the park.
The University of Canberra Brumbies held tight for the final minutes of the game despite being peppered by the Waratahs close to their line. In the final moments, long after the siren, Lealiifano tangled his leg, dislocating and breaking his ankle in one movement.
More information on Leaiifano’s injury will be known tomorrow.
UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA BRUMBIES 23 (Andrew Smith, Henry Speight tries Christian Lealiifano 2 cons 3 pens) bt NSW WARATAHS 6 (Brendan McKibbin 2 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Chris Pollock. Crowd: 19,122.
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruaidhri Murphy)
2. Stephen Moore (replaced by Anthony Hegarty)
3. Dan Palmer
4. Scott Fardy
5. Sam Carter
6. Ben Mowen (c)
7. Michael Hooper (replaced by Peter Kimlin)
8. Fotu Auelua (replaced by Ita Vaea)
9. Nic White (replaced by Ian Prior)
10. Christian Lealiifano
11. Joe Tomane (replaced by Tevita Kuridrani)
12. Pat McCabe (replaced by Tevita Kuridrani – blood)
13. Andrew Smith
14. Henry Speight
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Robbie Coleman)
16. Anthony Hegarty
17. Ruaidhri Murphy
18. Peter Kimlin
19. Ita Vaea
20. Ian Prior
21. Robbie Coleman
22. Tevita Kuridrani