The Brumbies stun the Waratahs 23-24 with a late fightback in Round Three of Super Rugby AU at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.
Issak Fines came off the bench to score a late try as the Brumbies clawed back a 15-point first-half deficit and then a six-point gap to win a scrappy Australian derby at Stadium Australia.
The Brumbies‘ win extends their winning run to five against their fierce rivals and continues Dan McKellar’s side’s record to eight wins from their last nine Super Rugby matches against NSW.
Rob Penney’s side’s second defeat of the tournament sees them drop one place below the Brumbies after collecting a losing bonus-point.
The Waratahs led 20-17 at the break after tries from Tom Horton and James Ramm, as well as the boot of Will Harrison.
Harrison kicked two penalties and two conversions and he also had a hand in Ramm’s try, assisting with a wonderful cross-field kick.
The 20-year-old standoff didn’t have things all his own way, his error led to Tom Cusack opening the scoring.
Harrison also missed a penalty that would have tied the club’s long-standing kicking record.
The Brumbies, despite taking an early lead, capitulated as the Tahs piled on the pressure.
They conceded two converted tries after Andy Muirhead’s yellow card deprived them of a man.
But, somehow, they hung in scoring twice before the interval through Folau Fainga’a and Rob Valetini to reduce the deficit to three at halftime.
Harrison added another penalty 10 minutes after the restart but missed one on 63 minutes that would have put his team two-scores ahead.
Fines 77th-minute try stunned the home team and Bayley Kuenzle won the game with the easy conversion as the Brumbies consolidate the second spot on the Super Rugby AU log.
A sensational first stanza saw the teams share five tries in a seesawing battle.
The Brumbies began well.
Their pack getting on top early as they went nine and 12 phases before opening the scoring in the fifth minute when Cusack capitalised on Harrison’s mistake inside his in-goal area.
Harrison dropped Lolesio’s cross-kick after being put under pressure from Muirhead’s challenge following a driving maul that was broken up by the Tahs’ pack.
The home side’s pack started to take charge of the set-pieces winning several scrum-penalties as they turned the screw on the visitors.
Harrison got the home team on the board with two penalties, in the 10th- and 15th-minute, as New South Wales took a slender lead in the first quarter.
The young Waratahs standoff missed a penalty on 20 minutes, which ended his attempt at the club’s successful kicking record of 18, ending one shy of the record.
Muirhead was sin-binned soon afterwards following referee Angus Gardner’s warning.
Mr Gardner lost his patience with the Brumbies, warning them again.
Rob Simmons eschewed kicks at goal, opting for driving mauls instead.
It worked a treat when Horton broke from the maul to score. Harrison added the extras and Penney’s charges led 13-5.
A third scrum-penalty led to some quick-thinking by Harrison and Ramm which caught the opposition napping.
Ramm crossed for his second Super Rugby try. Harrison took a quick-tap and sent a raking cross-field kick to the winger, who latched on to the bouncing ball to score.
The conversion opened up a three-score lead in favour of the hosts.
The Brumbies fightback with two tries in two minutes before halftime to cut the gap.
Fainga’a, in the 34th-minute, crashed over for his 22nd Super Rugby try.
It was also his sixth try in six consecutive games, equalling Malcolm Marx’s Lions’ record for a forward in the tournament, while putting the hooker one behind the great Chris Latham, on seven for Australians.
Soon afterwards, Valentin barged over from close-range after Tom Wright’s break took the visitors into the red zone.
Kuenzle, taking over from the injured Lolesio, who left the field with a hamstring injury, added the extras to make it 20-17 on 38 minutes.
A Jack Maddocks error inside his in-goal almost led to the Brumbies taking a halftime lead; instead, New South Wales hung on as the teams went into the shed.
Both teams struggled to find any rhythm after the break and the mistakes mounted as points dried up and the game disintegrated into a mess.
The visitors wasted a couple of good opportunities soon after the restart and their lineout began to breakdown.
Instead, it was the home team who got on the board when Harrison kicked a 50th-minute goal to increase the Sydney side’s lead.
Both scrums leaked penalties, but the breakdown continued an issue for the Brumbies, while both side’s kicking out of hand, as well as handling, was poor and the errors mounted.
Maddocks, in particular, lost his way.
He knocked on multiple times and threw wayward passes that killed his team’s attacks.
Harrison missed a shot at goal early in the fourth quarter that kept the visitors in the game.
Both teams’ lineouts began to breakdown, continuing an alarming trend in Super Rugby AU of hookers not being able to throw straight or find their jumpers.
The match started to peter out into a sorry mess before the surprising denouement.
It seemed nobody wanted to win the game until Fines darted through some tired defenders and scored under the sticks to help the visitors to another victory over the shell-shocked Waratahs.
Kuenzle made no mistake with the extras.
Final Score: Waratahs 23 (20) Brumbies 24 (17)
Tries – Horton, Ramm
Pen – Harrison (3)
Con – Harrison (2)
Tries – Cusack, Fainga’a, Valetini, Fines
Con – Kuenzle (2)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Ref 1: Amy Perrett
Assistant Ref 2: Reuben Keane
TMO: James Leckie
15 Jack Maddocks, 14 James Ramm, 13 Joey Walton, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Mitch Short, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (captain), 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Angus Bell, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Will Harris, 21 Michael McDonald, 22 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 23 Ben Donaldson
15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Lachlan McCaffrey, 20 Will Miller, 21 Issak Fines, 22 Bayley Kuenzle, 23 Mack Hansen