'Tahs come from behind in Sydney
The Waratahs, coming back from trailing by 10 points, edged the Brumbies in a bruising all-Australian Super Rugby derby on Saturday.
The Waratahs, coming back from trailing by 10 points, edged the Brumbies in a bruising all-Australian Super Rugby derby in Sydney on Saturday.
The 28-22 victory saw the Sydneysiders moved up to within striking distance of the play-off places with the June break just around the corner.
It wasn't a faultless display. In fact Tahs captain Dave Dennis was the first to admit there is plenty to work on.
But they collected four valuable points in another physical contest - their fourth victory in the last five weeks.
While the Waratahs had the edge in an early scrum, the Brumbies soon found a way to counter Ben Robinson's power and often illegal scrumming. They started winning this battle, even winning a crucial scrum penalty.
The Waratahs also felt the early loss of star lock Kane Douglas, and struggled to win quality possession in the line-outs.
The tackles, as you would expect from these derbies, were energetic and often brutal - with Tatafu Polota-Nau leading the way with his dangerous, missile-like launches at his opponents. However, it was Polota-Nau who ended up injuring himself, suffering a fractured arm in one of those take-off tackles.
For the Brumbies the biggest concern was their high penalty count, especially at the breakdown - which saw centre Tevita Kuridrani sent to the sin bin for repeated offences in the second half.
The Brumbies also took the wrong options on a few occasions, with some needless kicking when the occasion screamed for a ball-in-hand approach.
Add to that a sharp drop in intensity on defence after the break, which resulted in the Brumbies coughing up some easy tries in the second half.
The home team's most endearing characteristic was their never-say-die approach - they just kept plugging away and stayed true to their expansive game.
It brought them reward in the end - a three tries to two victory and four vital points on the standings.
The Waratahs were dealt an early blow - lock Kane Douglas running into George Smith's shoulder and going down for the count. He attempted to get back to his feet, but was wobbling around like a newborn baby giraffe and was quickly taken from the field.
With some stern defence the Brumbies not only won a turnover, but also a couple of penalties - the second of which Christian Lealiifano slotted for an early 3-0 lead.
From the restart the Waratahs earned a scrum feed on halfway, which became a penalty to the Tahs - with Brendan McKibbin making it 3-all.
However, the Brumbies continued to apply the blowtorch of pressure and going into the second quarter a series of forward rushes close to the Waratahs line saw Ben Mowen barge his way over for the opening try. Lealiifano couldn't add the conversion, but the Brumbies were back in the lead - 8-3.
Just on the half-hour mark the Brumbies were penalised for offside outside their 22 and McKibbin made it a two-=point game - 6-8.
The Waratahs, after a particularly poor line-out, saw Drew Mitchell's attempted clearance charged down by Tevita Kuridrani - who followed up to dot down for the second try. Jesse Mogg, who took over the goal-kicking, failed to add the extras - but the Brumbies took a 13-6 lead into the half-time break.
Very early in the second half, after another penalty at the breakdown against the Brumbies, replacement Berrick Barnes hit the upright and from the resulting melee the Brumbies won a scrum feed and a temporary reprieve.
However, the Waratahs quickly got their running game going - moving the ball to the right and back to the left - before there was space on the wing for Michael Hooper. This time Barnes was on target and it was suddenly 13-all in Sydney.
With a half-hour left on the clock the Brumbies were reduced to 14 men - Tevita Kuridrani sent to the sin bin for repeated offences at the ruck.
Barnes gave the Waratahs the lead for the first time with a penalty kick, but that lead was short-lived as - from the restart - the Tahs conceded a penalty on their own 22 and Jesse Mogg made it 16-all.
And Mogg, twice from 50 metres out, regained the lead for the Brumbies as the Waratahs transgressed at the breakdown - 22-16 with just over 15 minutes left on the clock.
However, the Waratahs again bounced back with a vengeance - Berrick Barnes coming on a wrap-around from a recycled ball and with the Brumbies' defenders standing off he ghosted over for the home team's second try. He failed with the conversion attempt, but it was a one-point game - 21-22 with 14 minutes on the clock.
The Waratahs made the Brumbies pay a dear price for some sloppy defence five minutes from time - replacement Peter Betham eased his way around a couple of defenders and then brushed off Ian Prior to go over for a great individual try. Barnes bounced the conversion over off the upright - 28-22.
And the Brumbies, who seemed to have lost all composure, failed to launch the expected late raid and went home with a losing bonus point.
Man of the match: George Smith, although heavily penalised, again made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown and was invaluable on defence. Jesse Mogg was not just a rock in the last line of defence, but those long-range penalties in the second half were crucial. Michael Hooper had a stand-out game - seven very strong carries for over 60 metres gained, yeoman work at the breakdown and a crucial turnover in the second half. However, our award goes to Waratahs replacement Berrick Barnes, who made a huge impact after he came for the second half - with his try 14 minutes from time turning the match on its head.
For the Waratahs:
Tries: Hooper, Barnes, Betham
Cons: Barnes 2
Pens: McKibbin 2, Barnes
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Mowen, Kuridrani
Pens: Lealiifano, Mogg 3
Yellow card: Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies, 50 - repeated offences at the breakdown, hands in)
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (captain), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Will Skelton, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Peter Betham.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Pat McCabe.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia), Graham Cooper (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)