The Brumbies’ disastrous 2011 season continued on Saturday night when they were beaten 29-20 by the Lions at a freezing Canberra Stadium.
The Lions, who had only won one other game this year, were another team to break a losing record in the capital this year, recording their first win in nine attempts in Canberra. They may have been belted by a rampant Cheetahs outfit only a week earlier, but they showed they had come determined to play and were led by brilliant fly-half Elton Jantjies. The lightweight Jantjies displayed his array of tricks and was easily the star of the show, as the Lions gatecrashed the party for Matt Giteau’s 100th SupeRugby match.
The home team had limited preparation coming into this match, but this didn’t seem apparent in the opening minutes as they confidently held out the big Lions forwards. Adam Ashley-Cooper made a break down the left wing, but the Brumbies’ chronic problem with lack of support meant this chance led to nothing.
Not long after, hooker Stephen Moore went close to scoring but was caught just short of the line and his arms weren’t long enough to finish the job. He wasn’t to be denied two minutes later and the first try was on the board. It looked like the Brumbies might have the traditional easy night at the office ahead.
But this was definitely not the case. The Lions held possession and turned down penalty shots at goal to kick for touch instead. They used their pack’s size advantage in pick-and-drive play and went close to scoring.
The Lions were a little unlucky to have prop Patric Cilliers sent to the bin for a dump tackle on Josh Valentine, which Lions coach John Mitchell later described as ridiculous. The Brumbies weren’t able to capitalise on this advantage and secured only three points in that ten minute period, while the Lions were able to score the first of their four tries through Michael Rhodes after strong phase play from their forwards.
Close to half-time the Lions confidently declined an easy chance at a penalty goal and scored another try , to winger Deon van Rensburg. They led 12–10 at the break.
The visitors got off to a cracking start in the second half and within five minutes scored another try under the sticks. Alwyn Hollenbach was the beneficiary recipient of some Jantjies magic, strolling over after the fly-half squeezed a pass out the back. The Brumbies fans were becoming a bit edgy.
The Brumbies seemed frustrated by the situation they faced and the crowd of 10,122 – the lowest in 12 years – expressed their views when Giteau opted for a shot at penalty goal instead of retaining possession and applying pressure. The kick good, though, and the Brumbies were down 13–22 going into the final 20 minutes.
But it didn’t take long for the Lions to put the game to bed, and a well-worked try to fullback Jaco Taute secured their second win of the season. The Brumbies chased the game, but it was too little, too late when Andrew Smith dived over three minutes from full-time after a long range attack that was started by Giteau deep within his own half. The final count of four tries to two reflects the mauling delivered by the Lions.
Adding salt to the claw wounds, the Brumbies now have serious injury concerns: prop Salesi Ma’afu has a broken arm, reserve hooker Huia Edmonds suffered a serious foot injury, and fullback Pat McCabe came away nursing a neck injury that needs further examination.
At the post-game press conference, interim head coach Tony Rea launched a volley of stinging barbs (check it out here) against the playing group. It will certainly be an interesting week down at Brumbies training as they prepare to take on the Force in Perth next weekend. Will the players respond to Rea’s attack? Or will they be more concerned that newly appointed head coach Jake White is in town?
Lions 29 (Rhodes, van Rensburg, Hollenbach, Taute tries; Jantjies 3 cons, pen) def. Brumbies 20 (Moore, A Smith tries; Giteau 2 cons 2 pens)
Put his hand up: Stephen Moore – For the second week in a row the Wallabies hooker was head and shoulders above his teammates. Honourable mention to Matt Giteau, who tried hard to get his team going in his 100th match.
Did himself no favours: It would be easy to say ‘everyone else’, but Ben Alexander was a conspicuous under-performer.
Bolter Watch: Colby Faingaa – Made some good line breaks and was named man of the match.