The Brumbies’ woes continued tonight after being thumped 52-10 by a rampant Crusaders outfit in Nelson. A scintillating display of running rugby from Crusaders winger Sean Maitland saw him collect four tries against the struggling Brumbies.
The Brumbies got the scoring started against the run of play in the third minute when a Colby Faingaa tackle popped the ball out and Brumbies flyhalf Matt Giteau swooped on the loose ball to dive over. Replays suggested a knock-on from Faingaa but referee Garratt Wiliamson did not spot it and waved play on.
At this point the Brumbies looked good, but it would soon start to unravel as the discipline issues that have plagued them in recent weeks began to show again.
Dan Carter got the Crusaders off the mark with a penalty in the 11th minute and added another not long after, which seemed to settle his side down. It appeared that referee Williamson was trying to stamp his authority on the game with five penalties awarded in the first 15 minutes of the match.
From a re-start after a Brumbies penalty, the Crusaders regathered the ball and spread the ball wide and from a breakdown, halfback Andy Ellis was obstructed when attempting to clear the ball inside the 22-metre area — which left Williamson no option but to send Matt Giteau to the sin bin. The replay suggested a harsh deal: it appeared that Ellis simply dropped the ball.
At this point it looked like it would all turn to custard for the visitors. The Crusaders got their first try of the night through Maitland after some great lead-up work from Andy Ellis, who broke through a simple gap, and with support from Sonny Bill Williams, Maitland dived over next to the posts. Carter continued his kicking display to push the lead out to 16-10.
While Giteau was in the bin, the Brumbies appeared to lose what ever direction they had, and this was confirmed when the Brumbies received a penalty inside the Crusaders’ red zone. With no recognised goalkicker on the field, it was left to Josh Valentine to take the shot from almost directly in front. He missed.
The Brumbies were unlucky not to score again after big No. 8 Ita Vaea picked up a loose ball and made a strong run down the wing, only for the raid to come unstuck after a big hit on winger Henry Speight.
The forwards, and in particular the scrum, were the only highlight for the team up to this point. It seemed perplexing that their scrum was penalised twice towards the end of the half. One penalty led to another Dan Carter kick to give the Crusaders a 19–10 lead at half-time.
Whatever was said in the Crusaders’ sheds at half time by coach Todd Blackadder was obviously effective, as his team came out on fire. Before people had returned from the beer and pies line, Sean Maitland had gone over for his second try.
In a scene reminiscent of the Brumbies’ clash against the Auckland Blues last year, the Crusaders put on a devastating period of play that saw them score three converted tries inside 10 minutes to crush any chance the Brumbies had of a recovery. A feature of the Saders’ play was finding gaps, not only up the middle but also out wide, which they exploited well. The line-break statistic of 9–0 confirms this.
Sonny Bill Williams added his name to the try-scoring list after a big step off his left foot left Adam Ashley-Cooper clutching thin air. Maitland collected his hat-trick five minutes later and then collected his personal bonus point before the 60th minute mark.
Brumbies coach Tony Rea had seen enough and emptied the reserves bench to give some of the younger players a chance to impress for selection in the next match. The Brumbies’ night was summed up when Ashley-Cooper collected a loose ball and in the shadows of the line was run down in the corner. The scrambling Crusaders defence held on and a knock-on at the ruck was the result.
To their credit, the Brumbies were able to hold out the Crusaders until the last few minutes, when constant pressure saw fullback Israel Dagg rewarded with a five-pointer — bringing up the half-century for the hosts.
The Brumbies have the week off with a bye before taking on the Waratahs, and the break couldn’t come at a better time for the under-performing side. The week off should give them a chance to get their minds back on the job after a turbulent few weeks at Brumbies HQ. It seems a big overhaul of attitude and commitment is required if the Brumbies are going to get their season back on track.
Crusaders 52 – Maitland 4, Williams, Dagg tries; Carter 4 cons, 4 pens, Berquist con def Brumbies 10 – Giteau try, con, pen.
Put his hand up: Ben Alexander – The Brumbies’ scrum was much improved tonight, and probably the match’s only highlight from the team’s perspective.
Did himself no favours: Hard to single out an individual after a performance like that , but if I had to it would be Stephen Moore, purely based on too many turnovers from the stats.
Bolter Watch: Colby Faingaa – Was one of the best in a team that struggled all night. The big hit on Chris Jack was a high point.