Brumbies rout Tahs to book play-off spot
SUPER RUGBY AU MATCH REPORT: The Brumbies booked their place in the play-offs with a 38-11 demolition of the Waratahs in Canberra on Saturday.
The hosts held a slender one-point (12-11) lead, but a second-half shut-out saw the Brumbies add four tries to their two second-half five-pointers to ease well clear.
The bonus-point win saw them move to the top of the standings with 23 points – two points clear of the second-placed Reds with two rounds remaining.
It also ensured the Reds have now qualified for the play-offs.
The result leaves the Waratahs in a precarious position, as they are in a race with the Melbourne Rebels for the third and final spot in the knock-out stages.
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The Reds surged ahead on Friday with their big win over the Western Force but it was short-lived with the Brumbies reminding their rivals of their superiority the very next day.
Wing Tom Wright celebrated a new Brumbies deal with two second-half tries, as did No.8 Pete Samu; among a haul of six against the Waratahs’ one.
Brumbies coach Dan McKellar made eight personnel changes to the line-up that lost to the Rebels before the bye, leaving Wallabies Tevita Kuridrani, Folau Fainga’a and Joe Powell out.
But his faith in the depth of the squad paid off against the Waratahs, who were gunning for their third successive win.
While the penalty count ended in their favour, Waratahs skipper Rob Simmons said ill-discipline in the first half put a lot of pressure on his team.
“We just gave too many penalties away – we know the Brumbies when they get down in their attacking half they come at you all day and we gave them too many opportunities,” Simmons said.
“When we give away that many penalties our heads start dropping and we start going elsewhere and looking to solve things individually.”
The visitors started well and could have had first points on the board but No.8 Jack Dempsey spilt the ball over the line.
They suffered another blow at the 15-minute mark when Brumbies scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan was awarded a try by the TMO despite being blatantly off-side.
Brumbies wing Andy Muirhead then reaped the rewards of a perfect cross-field kick by the Brumbies’ other young half Bayley Kuenzle.
Two penalties by Will Harrison kept the Waratahs in touch and then Dempsey made no mistake after some handy lead-up work by hooker Tom Horton for an 11-12 halftime scoreline.
But the second half was one-way traffic with the Waratahs unable to match the Brumbies’ lift in intensity and aggression.
Samu crossed in the corner after a long, floating pass from Irae Simone, before Wallabies World Cup scrumhalf Nic White came on for his first Brumbies match since 2015.
He immediately showed his class to put Wright away, which blew the score out to 26-11.
Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa said he was proud his team withstood an early barrage from the Waratahs to run away with the game.
“The Tahs came hard but the second half was a huge effort and definitely an improvement on our last game,” he said.
The Brumbies next take on the Force while the Waratahs face the Rebels in a match that could decide the final place in the finals.
Man of the match: Waratahs flank Michael Hooper is always good for a few turnovers. Brumbies No.8 Pete Samu missed a couple of tackles, but more than made up for it with his workrate and two tries in the second half. Our award goes to Brumbies flank Lachlan McCaffrey – who made a handful of powerful carries, made all but one of his tackles and won several crucial turnovers.
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Lonergan, Muirhead, Samu 2, Wright 2
Cons: Lonergan 2, Kuenzle 2
For the Waratahs:
Pens: Harrison 2
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Solomone Kata, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Bayley Kuenzle, 9 Ryan Lonergan, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Will Miller, 6 Lachlan McCaffrey, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Murray Douglas, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Connal McInerney, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Darcy Swain, 20 Rob Valetini, 21 Tom Cusack, 22 Nic White, 23 Len Ikitau.
Waratahs: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 James Ramm, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Joey Walton, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons (captain), 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Tom Horton, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Angus Bell, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Hugh Sinclair, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Ben Donaldson, 23 Nick Malouf.
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper, Reuben Keane
TMO: Ian Smith