Brumbies swim past the Blues
The Brumbies cemented their place at the top of the Australian Conference with a deserved 20-13 win over the Blues on Saturday.
The Brumbies cemented their place at the top of the Australian Conference with a deserved 20-13 win over the Blues in a very wet Auckland on Saturday.
The win ensures the Brumbies move to second place on the global standings, for a few hours at least, and can't be overtaken in the Aussie conference this week.
It was blowing a gale in pouring rain, even though some Kiwis still refer to these as a 'breeze' and a 'drizzle'.
Just over 10,000 brave souls arrived at Eden Park to watch a game in atrocious conditions.
It didn't help the Blues that they were constantly penalised for silly infringements at the breakdown or going offside.
Even though the first-half possession was very even, the Brumbies simply played a better tactical game in the testing conditions.
Blues coach John Kirwan gave his team the hairdryer treatment at the break and the home side certainly came out with more purpose in the second half - which was rewarded with 10 unanswered points in 15-minute blitz.
However, the Brumbies eventually regained their composure and even though the Blues won the second half count by 13 points to six, the Brumbies' first-half effort was enough to give them victory on the day.
The Brumbies were playing the conditions better early - Christian Lealiifano slotting a penalty in the first minute, after the Blues went offside at a ruck and then missing one from near halfway in the seventh minute after another breakdown offence.
Matt Toomua thought he had scored the opening try soon afterwards, but the TMO ruled he was in front of the ball when Scott Fardy hacked a head an attempted grubber by Chris Noakes.
Lealiifano eventually stretched his team's lead to 6-0 in the 17th minute, as the Blues continued to transgress at the breakdown.
Nic White exploited a mistake by the Blues, when George Moala failed to hold onto a high ball and it popped out the side of a ruck. White hacked ahead and collected it six metres from the line, sliding the rest of the way for the first try. The conversion attempt was wide - 11-0 after 23 minutes.
The Blues had a chance soon afterwards, Luke Braid being held up over the line. However, from the resulting scrum Peter Saili was penalised for pulling back the Brumbies scrumhalf, White.
Lealiifano missed another long-range penalty kick, as the Brumbies continued to pin the Blue in their half.
A scrum on the half-time hooter turned into penalty for the Brumbies, and Lealiifano slotted it to make the half-time lead 14-0 to the visitors.
The Blues - after coach John Kirwan gave them the hairdryer treatment in the dressing room at the break - came out with more purpose.
They got in the right part of the field, earned a handful of penalties and eventually Chris Noakes slotted one to narrow the gap to 3-14.
And that was followed by a period that saw Rene Ranger dominate play - a huge hit on Nic White and some powerful surges upfield that saw the Blues midfielder going over for the Blues' first try in 55th minute. Noakes added the conversion - 10-14 with the final quarter approaching.
A scrum penalty, awarded against Angus Ta'avao in the 60th minute, allowed Lealiifano to stretch the lead out to seven points - 17-10.
Fifteen minutes from time the Blues won a scrum penalty on the Brumbies 22 and Baden Kerr made it a four-point (13-17) game again.
However, the Blues' breakdown problems continued and inside the final 10 minutes they conceded another penalty, Lealiifano restored his team's seven-point lead - 20-13.
It became a mad scramble in the last five minutes - the Blues throwing everything into attack and the Brumbies relying on some desperate defence to keep them out.
And keep[ them out they did, taking four valuable points away from Auckland.
Man of the match: Luke Braid, as is so often the case, was a constant menace to the Brumbies. Rene Ranger sparked the Blues' revival after the break - starting with a monster hit on Nic White and then produced a number of powerful runs that resulted in him scoring the Blues' opening try. Nic White kept the Blues guessing and Matt Toomua taught Chris Noakes a lesson in playing the conditions. Stephen Moore displayed the hands of a midfielder and the determination of a bulldog, while Colby Faingaa was a vital cog on defence for the Brumbies. However, our award goes to Brumbies centre Christian Lealiifano - as his goal-kicking is what won it in the end, not to mention some tackles that won his team a few crucial turnovers late in the game.
For the Blues:
Pens: Noakes, Kerr
For the Brumbies:
Pens: Lealiifano 5
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Brendon O'Connor, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Kane Barrett, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Jackson Willison.
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 Colby Faingaa, 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 Jordan Smiler, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Clyde Rathbone.
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jonathon White (New Zealand), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)