Brumbies off to a flyer Down Under
SUPER RUGBY AU MATCH REPORT: The defending-champion Brumbies got their campaign off to a flyer with an impressive 27-11 win over the Western Force in Perth on Friday.
It was not as clinical as they would have wanted, but the Brumbies showed glimpses of the form that won then the 2020 title.
The Brumbies also ruined the Force’s long-awaited homecoming.
It had been 1,316 days since the Force had last played a Super game in Perth, but tries from Brumbies flyhalf Noah Lolesio, inside centre Irae Simone, and replacement Issak Fines-Leleiwasa set up a match-winning 27-6 lead in Friday’s season-opener.
The Force scored a late try to deny the Brumbies a bonus point.
“You’ve got to be proud of the boys going for it, and then we defended the other side of the field not to let them score,” Brumbies captain Allan Ala’alatoa said, when asked about the missed bonus point.
“You’ve got to be proud of the boys’ efforts. We were under pressure away from home.”
The Force suffered a pre-match blow when centre Kyle Godwin was ruled out with an ankle injury.
But they had a pretty handy replacement up their sleeve – World Cup-winning All Black Richard Kahui.
The Force hit the lead early with a penalty, but captain Ian Prior fluffed the chance to put his team 6-0 up when his close-range effort hit the post in the 14th minute.
The miss proved to be costly, with the Brumbies levelling the scores shortly after, before Lolesio made the most of a defensive lapse to score the first try of the match in the 21st minute.
Lolesio was able to stroll over untouched after scrumhalf Nic White picked the ball up from a breakdown and moved swiftly to his left to open up the gap for his teammate.
— Plus500 Brumbies (@BrumbiesRugby) February 19, 2021
The Force committed 10 penalties in the first half, gifting the Brumbies field position time and again.
The home side almost scored a try in the 33rd minute, but the TMO found the ball had fallen short of the line.
The most spectacular moment of the first half came when Force flyhalf Jono Lance unleashed a cross-field kick.
Force wing Byron Ralston caught the ball one-handed while squeezed up on the sideline, and he dribbled the ball forward while being tackled.
The attacking move eventually led to a penalty, but the Brumbies replied on the stroke of halftime to take a 13-6 lead into the break.
The Force were in a deep hole at 20-6 down early in the second half when Brumbies outside centre Len Ikitau broke through a tackle and dished off a sweet offload to set up Simone for a try.
An untimely knock-on denied Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White just a metre before the line a short time later, letting the Force off the hook.
And when Brumbies prop James Slipper was given a yellow card in the 59th minute for bringing down a rolling maul, the Force sniffed an opening.
But the Brumbies held firm with 14 men, and then sealed the win in the 71st minute when they swept it wide from a scrum for Fines-Leleiwasa to score.
The Force at least gave the crowd of 7,514 something to cheer about when Argentinean international Tomas Cubelli sneaked through a gap to score a 76th minute try and deny the Brumbies a bonus point in the process.
Man of the match: There are many players who put their hands up, with Cadeyrn Neville in particular a menace whenever the Force looked threatening. However, this game turned on the performance of just one player. Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White was the general that created all the breaks and half-breaks by testing the defence all the time. Not flawless and a bit too lippy at times, but he created the momentum in the first two tries, which killed off the Force challenge.
For the Western Force
Pens: Prior 2
For the Brumbies
Tries: Lolesio, Simone, Fines-Leleiwasa
Cons: Lolesio 3
Pens: Lolesio 2
Yellow card: James Slipper (Brumbies, 59 – repeated infringements, playing player in the air)
Western Force: 15 Robert Kearney, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Richard Kahui, 11 Marcel Brache, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior (captain), 8 Brynard Stander, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Fergus Lee-Warner, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Jack Winchester, 17 Angus Wagner, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Tim Anstee, 21 Tomás Cubelli, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Brad Lacey.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Mack Hansen, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Connal McInerney, 17 Harry Lloyd, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Reesjan Pasitoa, 23 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa.
Referee: Graham Cooper
Assistant referees: Sam Jones & Jordan Kaminski
TMO: Kyle Burnett