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The University of Canberra Brumbies have salvaged a single-bonus point after going down 30-23 against the Crusaders on Sunday.
With George Smith breaking George Gregan’s record of 136 club caps, a strong crowd of almost 17,000 turned through the gates at Bruce but it wasn’t enough to urge the Brumbies to victory.
The Crusaders were strong in defence and took advantage of a series of turnovers the Brumbies produced to score three tries to two. Dan Carter packed his kicking boots and landed six from six, most from the sideline.
The loss was the University of Canberra Brumbies first at home in 2013 and second of the year.
“The three team we didn’t play last year were the Stormers, Kings and Crusaders, and I feel like we’ve taken too long testing the water against those teams and haven’t been decisive enough in how to get into the game,” Head Coach Jake White said.
“By the 60th minute, it’s too late to be having a crack. It’s certainly a lesson we’ve learned tonight that we can take forward in this competition.
“I have no doubt that we’ll come up against the Crusaders again this year and we will need to be better than that to beat them and have a chance of winning the tournament.”
The match started with a series of kicking exchanges, with neither team prepared to play out of their own half. With the Crusaders on the attack, the Brumbies managed to score 10 points against the run of play.
Flyhalf Matt Toomua swooped on a Carter ball to dart 70 meters and score untouched, but it would be the only break the Brumbies would make for the opening 40 minutes. By halftime the Crusaders had maintained constant pressure and a whopping 74 per cent of possession.
Long range shots at goal from Jesse Mogg and Nic White fell short and when Andy Ellis darted over from the back of a disintegrated scrum, the scores were locked at 10-10 as the siren sounded for halftime.
Looking more energised after the break, the Brumbies found themselves in good field position with an opportunity to sneak in front. But more mistakes led to turnovers and the Crusaders went from coast to coast on two occasions as Israel Dagg and Zac Guildford cemented a commanding lead, 30-13.
A penalty to Christian Lealiifano and comeback try to Captain and Man of the Match, Ben Mowen, gave the home side a sniff. But ultimately they’d left their run too late with the Crusaders holding tight for a seven point win.
The University of Canberra Brumbies remain on top of the Super Rugby table and head into next week’s bye looking for a bigger effort the following week against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Crusaders 30 (Israel Dagg, Andrew Ellis, Zac Guildford tries Daniel Carter 3 cons; 3 pens) bt University of Canberra Brumbies 23 (Ben Mowen, Matt Toomua tries; Christian Lealiifano, Toomua cons; Lealiifano 3 pens) at Canberra Stadium. Referee: Craig Joubert. Crowd: 16,544.
University of Canberra Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore (replaced by Siliva Siliva)
3. Dan Palmer (replaced by Scott Sio)
4. Peter Kimlin
5. Sam Carter (replaced by Leon Power)
6. Fotu Auelua (replaced by Colby Faingaa)
7. George Smith
8. Ben Mowen ©
9. Nic White (replaced by Ian Prior)
10. Matt Toomua
11. Joe Tomane
12. Christian Lealiifano
13. Tevita Kuridrani (replaced by Pat McCabe)
14. Henry Speight
15. Jesse Mogg (replaced by Robbie Coleman)
16. Siliva Siliva
17. Scott Sio
18. Leon Power
19. Colby Faingaa
20. Ian Prior
21. Robbie Coleman
22. Pat McCabe