The Brumbies edged the NSW Waratahs 22-24 in a close-fought Round Seven Super Rugby AU contest at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney.
This was a close call, but the Brumbies hung on for a hard-fought victory over a spirited NSW Waratahs under the lights of the famous old ground after a dogged second-half fightback by the hosts.
Will Harrison missed a touchline conversion — three minutes into stoppage time — which would have taken the game into extra time after James Ramm’s last-play score made it a two-point game at the death.
The thrilling denouement came after the Tahs kept a lackluster Brumbies scoreless from the 35th-minute.
The Canberra side had led by 14 points at the break. However, three yellow cards (two for Tom Cusack, who saw red in the 82nd-minute) almost opened the door for the beleaguered franchise as the visitors imploded at the end.
The Brumbies scored four tries to three to win a tight contest over the winless Waratahs, and in the process, complete another double over their old rivals, who are a shadow of their former selves – a club in decline and disarray.
Tom Banks, Tom Wright, Andy Muirhead, Folau Fainga’a all crossed for Dan McKellar’s men, while Harry Johnson-Holmes, Harrison, and Ramm dotted down for the Tahs, who pushed the defending champions all the way.
The Tahs should have won this, the ACT men seemed uninterested, and it almost came back to bite them. The hosts either lost or turned over five glorious opportunities to score throughout the game, which proved costly in the end.
The comfortable win is the Brumbies 11 in 12 Super Rugby games against the woeful Waratahs, and eighth on the bounce.
The bonus-point win moves the Brumbies top of Super Rugby AU ahead of the Queensland Reds, who are still to play the Melbourne Rebels tomorrow.
Brumbies never get out of second gear as they cruise to a two-goal half-time lead
Former coach Rob Penney took the fall for his side’s malaise, and in truth, there is not much his former assistant coaches Jason Gilmore and Chris Whitaker could do but send the team out to keep the score down, never mind win.
What will encourage the new caretaker coaches is that their team did not capitulate as they did back in February when the Brumbies humiliated them 61-10 in Canberra.
On that dismal night, the Brumbies led 26-10, two more than tonight’s halftime score, but then battered the Sydney men in the second half.
Back then, the Tahs wilted, this time they did not. To put this result in context, this is the first time all season that New South Wales has scored 17 points.
Instead, the home team dug deep, and almost pulled off a stunning upset a la the Highlanders versus the Crusaders in Super Rugby Aotearoa, earlier in the day.
That the Tahs kept the Brumbies scoreless in the second stanza is a testament to the character of a Union in pain.
Banks and Wright scored to put the visitors 10-0 up after 14 minutes. Johnson-Holmes and Alex Newsome both went close before Harrison’s 18th-minute penalty put the home team on the board.
The scores were soon level when Johnson-Holmes barged over after Jake Gordon’s quick-thinking. Harrison added the extras, but the Brumbies hit back two minutes later.
Muirhead danced his way around several defenders to put his side back in front. Folau Fainga’a grabbed his side’s fourth five-pointer, six minutes from the break.
Waratahs come out fighting as Brumbies fail to put the game to bed
The game looked over at the break, but Cusack’s yellow card kick-started a strange series of plays that always ended without any team scoring.
Like much of the first 40 minutes, the second was dominated by the hosts (63% possession and territory). Harrison’s converted 65th-minute score inspired the men in light blue.
They increased the tempo and put an enormous amount of pressure on the visitors, who looked jaded and began to fall foul of Mr. Graham Cooper.
Super Rugby AU Round 7 Video Highlights: Waratahs vs Brumbies at Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Rory Scott went to the bin. He was soon followed by Cusack again as the game descended into madness.
The last quarter was spent inside the opposition’s 22, but every time the Tahs looked to score, a turnover, penalty, or knock-on killed the attack, and with that, any hope of an unlikely comeback win.
But Cusack lost his mind, playing the ball out of Gordon’s hands in front of the ref (who only saw it after a TMO review). Ramm scored from a slick move off the scrum, but Harrison could not level.
Final Score Waratahs 22 (10) Brumbies 24 (24)
Tries – Johnson-Holmes, Harrison, Ramm
Pen – Harrison
Con – Harrison (2)
Tries – Banks, Wright, Muirhead, Folau Fainga’a
Con – Lolesio (2)
Cards – Cusack (Yellow, 46′; Yellow 82′ – Red), Scott (Yellow, 74′)
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant Ref 1:
Assistant Ref 2:
15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Izaia Perese, 12 Lalakai Foketi, 11 James Ramm, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon (captain), 8 Will Harris, 7 Carlo Tizzano, 6 Hugh Sinclair, 5 Max Douglas, 4 Jeremy Williams, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 David Porecki, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Tom Horton, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Darcy Breen, 19 Michael Wood, 20 Charlie Gamble, 21 Jack Grant, 22 Tane Edmed, 23 Mark Nawaqanitawase
15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Nick Frost, 3 James Slipper, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 Harry Lloyd
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Fred Kaihea, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 James Tucker, 20 Rory Scott, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Mack Hansen