The Brumbies’ season of woe continued as they were belted by a rampant Cheetahs side 47-36 in Bloemfontein in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Those who decided that watching 3:00am game of rugby would be great (like me) were probably wondering why they bothered after the first 20 minutes of the match.
It appeared that the Brumbies got the kick-off time wrong as the Cheetahs got a cracking start with a monster drop goal from Riaan Viljoen from 60 metres out after just two minutes that would have made Francois Steyn happy.
If that wasn’t bad enough, two minutes later the Brumbies butchered a line-out on the Cheetahs’ five-metre line. Cheetahs halfback Sarel Pretorius ran almost the length of the field and put the Brumbies under more pressure on their own five-metre line. From that close, it was impossible to stop the 127kg bulk of loose-head prop Coenie Oosthuizen barging over for a five-pointer.
At this point you might have expected the Brumbies to have woken from their slumber, but another piece of Pretorius magic saw him score the first of two tries for the night after a missed tackle in the midfield opened up the gaps.
Almost immediately the Cheetahs scored their third try of the night. Another dart led form Pretorius led to tight-head prop WP Nel diving over. The term ‘diving’ can be used loosely here as it looked like Nel was in so much shock to be over the line that he was unsure how to celebrate. Sias Ebersohn’s conversion had the score at 22-0 to the home team after just 11 minutes of play. Even the possession stat was unflattering for the Brumbies at this point, with 72 per cent marked up to the locals.
It took until the 21st minute for the Brumbies to get back inside the Cheetahs’ 22, with Peter Kimlin making a break. But this phase of play summed up the night for the visitors, as Kimlin was isolated with no support and had no option except to kick and chase. It wasn’t all for nothing as the Brumbies finally got on the board with a long range try to winger Francis Fainifo. A nice inside ball from Christian Lealiifano allowed Fainifo to inject himself into the backline and run to the line.
The Cheetahs weren’t to be outdone and Pretorius, who should be in the Springbok selectors’ minds after this performance, collected a loose ball after a Brumbies turnover and outpaced the cover defence to secure the four-try bonus point after only 26 minutes. With Ebersohn’s conversion the Cheetahs enjoyed a 32-7 lead.
To the credit of the Brumbies they did try to play some rugby from this point, possibly only as a damage control option. Ben Alexander continued his amazing try-scoring feats and showed his Cheetah counterparts he wasn’t going to miss the props’ try-scoring party. Five minutes later Brumbies flanker Michael Hooper was added to the try-scorers list after Patrick Phibbs snuck his way through some lazy Cheetahs defence. Giteau’s conversion from close range saw the score at 32-21, giving the visitors a sniff of the unthinkable – a victory.
Their cause was helped just before the break when another Kimlin break saw Adam Ashley-Cooper go over in the left corner. This try earned the Brumbies their own four-try bonus point and left them trailing by only six points at half-time, in what was looking more like a Barbarians match.
The second half was very much a contrast to the first as it appeared the fast pace of the match was taking its toll on both teams. The Cheetahs were the recipients of some uncharacteristic penalties and were prepared to hold onto their lead, advance their score in threes and put the Brumbies just out of reach.
Some of the discipline shown by the Brumbies was not what coach Tony Rea – or incoming coach Jake White – would have wanted to see in a crucial part of the match. Obstruction, scrum infringements and ruck indiscretions were the order of the second half and the game was slipping away for the Brumbies.
Lealiifano was yellow carded in the 63rd minute by referee Marius Jonker and at this point the game was all but sewn up after another Ebersohn penalty extended the lead to 12 points.
The Brumbies did mount a late surge with replacement back Robbie Coleman showing a clean pair of heels as he dashed all the way down the right wing to give the Brumbies hope of a second bonus point. Giteau’s conversion from near the sideline had the local fans on the edge of their seats for a tight finish; however, two more penalty goals from Ebersohn (for offences in the “stupid” class, it must be said) saw that hope crushed, and along with it any chance of the Brumbies saving face in what must described as a very disappointing season.
Injury news after the match had Brumbies forwards Peter Kimlin and Mitchell Chapman cleared of serious arm injuries, although further scans will decide whether or not replacements will need to be sent over from Australia. Reports suggest that newly promoted squad player Sam Carter could be brought in as cover.
Cheetahs 47 S Pretorius 2, WP Nel, Oosthuizen tries; S Ebersohn 3 cons, 5 pens, Viljoen 2 drop goals def. Brumbies 36 Fainifo, Hooper, Alexander, Ashley-Cooper, Coleman tries; Giteau 4 cons, pen.
Put his hand up: Matt Giteau tried his best on a night when nothing appeared to go right for the Brumbies.
Did himself no favours: A few to choose from but unfortunately Adam Ashley-Cooper claims the unwanted prize this week after some inglorious moments throughout the match, including his statue impersonation as Sarel Pretorius ran right past him on one occasion in the first half.
Bolter Watch: Peter Kimlin – Easily the best Brumbies forward on the park. Managed a chip-and-chase and another line break that led to Ashley-Cooper’s try.