The Brumbies had to make hard work it against a determined Western Force side but eventually came away with a 31-14 win in Canberra and secure top spot in Super Rugby AU standing and the right to host the final on September 19.
The Force may not have won a game yet in Super Rugby AU but they dominated the opening 25 minutes of the game with a mix of strong forwards play and pressuring the Brumbies into mistakes to stifle their play in a game that was nowhere near as comfortable for the Brumbies as the final score suggested.
The try scoring form of Tom Wright continued and tries from Tom Banks, Will Miller, Andy Muirhead and replacement Len Ikitau rounded out the Brumbies win. For the Force Fergus Lee-Warner and Jono Lance found the line but they would be disappointed they couldn’t come away with a big scalp with an upset win after looking so dominant for the majority of the opening half.
It wasn’t a great start for the Force after they dropped the kickoff but they did well to recover and even put the Brumbies under pressure on their own line for the opening 10 minutes.
Armed with a strong scrum and solid contact around the ruck from the back row and Henry Stowers in particular, the Force worked patiently through the forwards to make it tough for the Brumbies defence and eventually Fergus Lee-Warner scored a well worked opening try. Ian Prior’s conversion made it 7-0.
Despite not having won a game in Super Rugby AU, the Force continued to dominate the territory and possession to frustrate the Brumbies who really struggled to get anything going in the opening 20 minutes.
The Force did well to disrupt any platform for the Brumbies with their wide rush defence and pressure on Joe Powell making it hard to get the backline into the game.
When they did finally get something going in the Force 22, it was a lack of execution that let them down with attempted offloads and general passing game not hitting the mark to let the Force off the hook.
The Brumbies finally got close to the Force line and looked to have finally scored in the 27th minute from close range to Allan Alaalatoa but that was ruled out by the TMO and referee Amy Perrett who took the whistle for the first time at Super Rugby level.
And then less than 2 minutes later, they had another try ruled out for obstruction by Joe Powell as Tom Banks made a break and offloaded to deny Andy Muirhead that could be considered a square up for last week.
It was third time lucky for the Brumbies on the 33 minute mark as Tom Wright continued his hot try scoring form after an unconventional method of letting a Force bomb bounce and Solomone Kata collected the ball to find Will Miller who found Wright to send him on his way to the line to make it 7-5.
That seemed to spark the Brumbies out of their slump with the penalties racking up against the Force to give the Brumbies easy field position. The work from the Force forwards had done well to disrupt the Brumbies ball but a change their tactics to not contest the lineout and defend the maul allowed space out wide and Tom Banks finally broke the shackles and a 167 day drought to score the Brumbies second to put them in front at 10-7.
The Force pack seemed intent on matching their rolling maul with their opponents and declined a shot at penalty goal early in the second half that would have levelled the scores, but the Brumbies maul defence stood up to the task to get them out of trouble.
Back-to-back penalties followed that to give the Brumbies good field position and 4 changes with Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a, Rob Valetini and Nic White into the fold at the 50-minute mark.
The quick ball was too much for the Force to defend and White found Will Miller on the left wing to give the Brumbies some breathing room at 17-7 after Bayley Kuenzle’s sideline conversion.
It only took 4 minutes for the Force got back into the game with their own back-to-back penalties and Jono Lance attacked the line and squeezed his way through the defence of Kata to reduce the margin to 3 after Prior’s conversion.
But the discipline problems continued for the Force to get the Brumbies a leg up the field and the pace and quick passing from White had the Force on the back foot and it allowed Len Ikitau to score his first Brumbies try and Kuenzle’s conversion restored the 10 point margin at the 65 minute mark.
It then took until the last 6 minutes for the Brumbies to put the game to bed with Andy Muirhead getting on the scorers list after swooping on an Irae Simone grubber kick ahead of Tom Banks and Kyle Godwim to get the nod from the TMO and another Kuenzle conversion made it 31-14.
The Brumbies looked to have scored right on the full time siren through a rolling maul try to Folau Fainga’a but a technical penalty on Will Miller in the transfer of the ball ruled out a third try but they still ran out 17 point winners in a hard fought win and will head to Brisbane next week to take on the Reds while the Force take on the Melbourne Rebels as part of a double header next Saturday.
The Game Changer
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar made 4 changes at the 50-minute mark that were instrumental in the win. Nic White’s experience raised the pace of the game and assists for Miller and Ikitau’s tries saw them home.
The G&GR MOTM
It was a tough win for the home side but Tom Wright continues to impress and added another try to his tally in 2020.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Wright, Banks, Miller, Ikitau, Muirhead
Conversions: Kuenzle 3
Tries: Lee-Warner, Lance
Conversions: Prior 2