Force downed in tight Top-End tussle

The University of Canberra Brumbies have claimed their first scalp of 2013 downing the Western Force, 20-18 at Rugby Park in Darwin, in the Defence Housing Australia Top-End Trial.

Friday night’s match was a Brumbies Rugby debut for Wallabies flanker David Pocock and a return to the game for the first time since 2009 for Clyde Rathbone. Rathbone scored the Brumbies second try of the evening and played the first 40 minutes without missing a beat.

A strong opening 20 minutes set the platform for the rest of the match, with rain slowing the University of Canberra Brumbies momentum and allowing the Force back into the contest.

As lightning danced across the Darwin sunset, the night played out all four seasons with intense heat and humidity followed by blustery winds and finally driving rain. The conditions dictated the makeup of the game as players were forced to constantly adjust to the weather.

Now at the summit of a long and challenging pre-season, the Brumbies fielded 12 players who had undergone surgery during spring or summer but the entire team managed to pull through the hit-out uninjured.

Head Coach Jake White said there were plenty of positives to take out of the trip to Darwin.

“I think the most important thing is that we came through unscathed, there were no injuries so that’s always a good sign. Secondly I thought that the first 20 minutes were outstanding and the last 20 our reserves showed a lot of character to hang in there,” White said.

“Without singling anyone out, it was nice that everyone felt that they were a part of that match and that they can contribute to what promises to be a tough campaign.

“It was like one of those rain, hail and sunshine situations – when the sun was shining I thought we were fantastic but when the rain came in we probably lost our way a little bit. At the end when we had to grind it out, we had to dig deep and we got the result. There are a lot of things that we will take away from this game that will help to boost the team ahead of the season.”

The match started with a flurry of attacking raids from the University of Canberra Brumbies, as Christian Lealiifano looked back to his best making plenty of ground over the advantage line.

He was supported by bursts from Henry Speight, Matt Toomua and Nic White, who all looked ready to take the game by the throat.

Toomua grabbed the opening try of the game before a steaming Clyde Rathbone turned back the clock to dart 30 metres and score in the corner. It was a flashback to the good old days, with Rathbone looking to hit top form two weeks from now when the Brumbies face the Reds at Canberra Stadium.

The Force fought their way back into the match as conditions deteriorated, with journeyman Hugh McMeniman announcing his return to Australian rugby with a try under the posts.

His five-pointer was later doubled by former Brumbies Academy star Junior Rasolea, who found himself on the end of some quality work from his outside backs.

The Force had a chance to snatch the win after the siren with a penalty goal from past half way, but young gun Kyle Godwin couldn’t find accuracy with the kick sailing to the left of the uprights, handing the Brumbies the win.

The University of Canberra Brumbies return to Canberra on Saturday, with their final trial match against the ACT XV next Friday afternoon at Viking Park.

University of Canberra Brumbies 20 (Matt Toomua, Clyde Rathbone tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 pens, 2 cons) bt Western Force 18 (Hugh McMeniman, Junior Rasolea tries; Sias Ebersohn con, 2 pens)

University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruaidhri Murphy)
2. Stephen Moore (replaced by Siliva Siliva)
3. Dan Palmer (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Scott Fardy (replaced by Etienne Oosthuizen)
5. Sam Carter (replaced by Leon Power)
6. Peter Kimlin (replaced by Tim Cree)
7. David Pocock (replaced by Jordan Smiler)
8. Ben Mowen (replaced by Fotu Auelua)
9. Nic White (replaced by Ian Prior)
10. Matt Toomua (replaced by Zack Holmes)
11. Clyde Rathbone (replaced by Tom Cox)
12. Christian Lealiifano (replaced by Jordan Rapana)
13. Andrew Smith (replaced by Tevita Kuridrani)
14. Henry Speight (replaced by Stephan Van Der Walt)
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Robbie Coleman)