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Nine years of losses in Wellington were put to an end on Friday night when the University of Canberra Brumbies sealed a bonus-point win, 37-25, to stay top of the Australian Conference.
The visitors fell behind by two tries early in the second half, but managed to weather the toll of heavy possession and momentum against them to climb back into the contest and over the top of the Hurricanes.
Rookie flyhalf Zack Holmes was outstanding, scoring a try and nailing seven from eight with the boot for a personal haul of 22 points. For much of the second half it looked like the Hurricanes would run away with the match, but Holmes stepped up providing plenty of options for his outside backs to feed off.
He was joined by Michael Hooper and Joe Tomane as three of the University of Canberra Brumbies best, with the flanker claiming another try and edging his way towards a gold jersey. Tomane’s first half bust was all class and the bulky winger must also be considered a chance to wear Wallaby gold in the near future.
The Hurricanes young guns fired, particularly TJ Perenara and Julian Savea. They created plenty of opportunities and worked the Hurricanes into the game. Perenara grabbed two tries while Savea made countless raids through the middle of the Brumbies defensive line.
But it wasn’t enough for the Hurricanes.
New Zealand hasn’t been any easy place for the University of Canberra Brumbies to muster wins in recent years, with the last seven matches going against them. But none of that mattered for the 2012 University of Canberra Brumbies on Friday as they battled their way to a well-earned win in Wellington.
Although the score was convincing, the University of Canberra Brumbies will have plenty to work on before next week’s encounter with restarts and kicking out on the full again causing headaches.
“I’m pleased with the way we fought back into the game, there aren’t many teams who could go two tries down to the Hurricanes in Wellington and run over the top of them,” Head Coach Jake White said.
“The longer the game went on the more comfortable Zack looked and he should be happy with that performance. It’s not easy being thrown into a tough game like that. There was a lot of attention on him this week but I think he handled it professionally.
“We will need to improve if we are a chance against the Reds next week. They have hit form and will be looking for that top spot in the Australian Conference. All we can ask for is a big crowd at Canberra Stadium next Saturday, to get behind these young players.”
The University of Canberra Brumbies opened the scoring with a penalty to Holmes before Fotu Auelua grabbed his first career try. A Wellington native, Auelua was greeted by a huge banner welcoming him ‘home’ only to inflict the first try of the game from close range.
While the fast start had flattered the University of Canberra Brumbies with a 10-0 lead, they wouldn’t cross the line for more than 25 minutes as the Hurricanes ran in tries to Perenara and Vito to lead 15-13 at the break.
Along with his own brace, Perenara had a hand to play in Vito’s with a double-switch play in front of the posts paying off for the rampaging loose-forward.
The Hurricanes looked set to run away with the game after the break, with Perenara again claiming five points, this time from broken play. His side had all the ball and momentum but could be accused of taking their foot off the University of Canberra Brumbies throat.
The University of Canberra Brumbies finally hit their straps with 25 minutes to go, as Sam Carter followed a quality Scott Fardy bust to sprint the final 25 metres and score. Fardy found himself in space off a flat ball from Nic White and with Carter in support the Brumbies engine had been jump-started.
Hooper’s close-range effort followed, nudging his side into the lead, while Holmes put the icing on a memorable win.
The University of Canberra Brumbies return to Canberra on Saturday afternoon to prepare for next week’s top of the table clash with the Reds.
UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA BRUMBIES 37 (F Auelua, S Carter, M Hooper, Z Holmes tries; Z Holmes 4/4 conversions, 3/4 penalty goals) bt HURRICANES 25 (TJ Perenara 2, V Vito, J Toomaga-Allen tries; A Taylor 1/3 conversions, 1/1 penalty goals)
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore (replaced by Anthony Hegarty)
3. Dan Palmer (replaced by Ruaidhri Murphy)
4. Scott Fardy
5. Sam Carter (replaced by Ita Vaea)
6. Ben Mowen (c)
7. Michael Hooper
8. Fotu Auelua (replaced by Ita Vaea, Peter Kimlin)
9. Ian Prior (replaced by Nic White)
10. Zack Holmes
11. Joe Tomane
12. Pat McCabe
13. Andrew Smith
14. Henry Speight (replaced by Tevita Kuridrani)
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Robbie Coleman)
16. Anthony Hegarty
17. Ruaidhri Murphy
18. Peter Kimlin
19. Ita Vaea (replaced by Fotu Auelua)
20. Nic White (replaced by Ian Prior)
21. Robbie Coleman
22. Tevita Kuridrani