The Plus500 Brumbies secured their fourth Australian Conference title with a 35-24 victory over the Waratahs at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, in the process making certain of a home Super Rugby Quarter Final to be played at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
The damage was all done in the first half in a blistering eighteen-minute spell in which the visiting team scored four tries to rip apart the Waratahs and set the platform for an outstanding victory.
Rory Arnold, Andy Muirhead, Irae Simone and Folau Fainga’a all found their way over the Waratahs line as the Brumbies flexed their muscle. It took a quarter of an hour for the Brumbies to launch an attack of any real substance but, when they did, they found the first try of the contest.
As they’ve done all season, the men from the nation’s Capital eschewed a kick at goal from a penalty electing instead to kick to touch minutes after Bernard Foley kicked the Waratahs ahead. After Fainga’a drove close to the Waratahs line, the Brumbies recycled the ball and Arnold, playing at scrum half, picked up, dummied and reached a long arm out to stretch over and cross.
Christian Lealiifano potted the conversion to edge the visitors ahead. Dan McKellar’s team went further in front inside the opening twenty minutes as they took the game to the ‘Tahs. Tom Banks ran a superb line through a static home defensive structure to set it up, and Muirhead picked up, showing impressive leg strength to force his way over with Lealiifano converting again.
It got even better moments later with a third try. Toni Pulu injected the pace down the left flank and flipped a pass inside to Tevita Kuridrani. The big centre took it on before off-loading to midfield partner Simone who stepped inside Kurtley Beale for his third try in three matches, Lealiifano converted for a 21-3 lead.
There was more to come as the Brumbies ran their go-to, and Fainga’a was the beneficiary of the rolling maul for his eleventh try of the season, with Lealiifano continuing his perfect night from the tee to leave the Brumbies 28-3 up at the break.
There was a good response from the Waratahs at the start of the second half as scrumhalf Nick Phipps found a way over the line, Foley reducing the deficit to eighteen but the Brumbies re-grouped to prevent any further inroads into their advantage until nine minutes from the end when Adam Ashley-Cooper collected his own grubber to score a well-taken try.
Far from being deterred, the Brumbies simply re-gathered their composure and, from a scrum close to the line, Tom Cusack added the fifth try of the night, sealing a fifth win in a row, with Lealiifano completing his 100% kicking record to seal top spot, making Curtis Rona’s try after the hooter redundant.
Waratahs (3) 24 (T: Phipps, Ashley-Cooper, Rona, C: Foley (3), P: Foley)
Plus500 Brumbies (28) 35 (T: Arnold, Muirhead, Simone, Fainga’a, Cusack, C: Lealiifano (5))
1. James SLIPPER (17. Scott SIO 49’), 2. Folau FAINGA’A ((16. Connal MCINERNEY 57’), 3. Allan ALAALATOA (18. Leslie LEULUAIALII-MAKIN 67’), 4. Rory ARNOLD (19. Darcy SWAIN 60’), 5. Sam CARTER, 6. Rob VALETINI (20. Lachlan MCCAFFREY 49’), 7. Tom CUSACK, 8. Pete SAMU (21. Jahrome BROWN 60’), 9. Joe POWELL (22. Matt LUCAS 72’), 10. Christian LEALIIFANO, 11. Toni PULU, 12. Irae SIMONE (23. Tom WRIGHT 74’), 13. Tevita KURIDRANI, 14. Andy MUIRHEAD, 15. Tom BANKS