The Brumbies had a chance to show everyone they were title contenders in their match against Wellington. After 80 minutes of ‘Rugby’ they ended up showing they were still pretenders with a 23-13 loss and one of the worst games the crowd at Canberra Stadium have seen in a long time. Robbie Deans and his assistants were also on hand to run their eye over potential Wallabies but on that showing, probably should have stayed at home. (ED: or gone to QLD!)
For those who didn’t see the game and looked at the stats would be thinking ‘The Brumbies should have dominated this one!’ Well unfortunately they did not. The game was a mix of handling errors, poor kicking, penalties, yellow cards this wasn’t limited to just one team. It was hard to work out who the home crowd was booing the most at the end of the game – their team or referee Jonathan Kaplan.
The first 15 minutes had the Brumbies at 84% possession and 82% in the Hurricanes half of the field. However, games are not always won on statistics or on paper. Jonathan Kaplan set the tone for the game by producing his first yellow card for the season in the 9th minute to Wellington flanker Nick Crosswell after 5 consecutive penalties.The Brumbies declined shots at goal only to be repelled by dogged Hurricanes defence.
The wise heads in the Wellington team, particularly the forwards, did their best to slow the game down with scrum resets and walking to lineouts whilst down a man. They had another 10 minute period without a player when scrum half Tyson Keats was also banished to the sin bin. If the ‘Canes had set out to spoil the game by any means, then they executed this plan perfectly and almost survived without conceding any points until Brumbies scrum half Patrick Phibbs scooted over for a try in the 33rd minute after a strong scrum.
It was almost unbelievable to the home crowd that the score was only 5-3 at the half with the Brumbies enjoying 70% possession and being camped in the Wellington 22m area for 4 minutes. This was a result of excellent Hurricanes defence and the Brumbies not taking their chances to capitalise on playing against 14 men for 20 minutes of the half.
The second half was not much better for the home spectators. The Hurricanes bided their time waiting for a mistake from the home team. The Hurricanes backs are littered with All Blacks and you can’t give them a sniff or they will punish you which is exactly what happened in the 50th minute when Conrad Smith scored after excellent play from the backs.
From this point it looked like it would be too much for the Brumbies to hit back after what they had shown but Matt Giteau was finally able to find some space and dive over in the 55th minute to leave the Brumbies trailing by only 3 points. His missed conversion pretty much summed up the night for the Brumbies.
The night was topped off by what most in the crowd thought was a knock on by the Hurricanes but Victor Vito played to the whistle and sealed the win with only 10 minutes to go. Referee Kaplan had no doubt in awarding the try and replays confirmed the correct decision was made and to be fair to Kaplan, the officials clarified this with me after the game.
The Brumbies will need to forget about this match as they head to Sydney for the next game against the Waratahs. Some adjustments will need to be made and hopefully some of the injured brigade, boasting some 500 Super Rugby games experience, will be back for the all important clash.
Put his hand up: Stephen Moore – Solid play around the field and did his best despite what was happening around him.
Did himself no favours: Matt Giteau – Some poor kicking with at least 3 out on the full in key areas. Not playing in his best position and looked better when out wider in the back line.
Bolter Watch: Pat McCabe – I’ m a fan of McCabe with his strong running and does look dangerous when he has the ball in hand.