Brumbies stampede past Waratahs
March 9, 2013
David Pocock was replaced by George Smith after sustaining what was reported to be a season-ending knee injury
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The Brumbies have confirmed their standing as Australia's leading Super Rugby team, producing a strong and disciplined performance to defeat New South Wales Waratahs 35-6 at Canberra Stadium.
The hosts claimed maximum reward from the Waratahs' early ill-discipline, gifted three cheap penalties for ruck offences to lead 9-0 inside 10 minutes and then scoring a try through Ben Mowen from a rolling maul from a lineout after eschewing a kick when Waratahs fullback Ben Volavola had been penalised for not releasing.
Not even the loss of Wallabies captain David Pocock in the 12th minute, with what was later reported to be an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his left knee that may end his season, could derail the Brumbies; Pocock was replaced by George Smith, and his predecessor in the Wallabies No. 7 jumper showed in outplaying the Waratahs backrow, featuring Michael Hooper, that he has lost none of his skills in exile in Japan.
Smith said on Fox Sports after the game that he was "very fortunate to get a couple of steals, they were probably just running into me". "But it was fantastic to get those steals and get back in the game. Having a couple of good involvements helped me get my rhythm back, and I was very pleased."
Brumbies coach Jake White paid tribute after the game to Smith and to his bench players who had such an effect as the team iced victory in the final quarter.
"It's nice when you can sit in the box and watch things unfold and tick all the boxes," White said. "George Smith is phenomenal. It was a stroke of genius getting him here ... you don't wish anything on David, but at the same time there's no doubt [Smith's] presence and what he did tonight shows just what a talent he is."
George Smith helped the Brumbies overcome the loss of David Pocock
The Brumbies extended their scoreboard advantage when Christian Lealifano scored in the 32nd minute, the inside centre racing onto a kick behind the defence from fullback Jesse Mogg to touch down in the corner.
The Waratahs, whose hopes were disadvantaged by the early loss of Tatafu Polota-Nau to a leg injury, had an opportunity to work themselves back into the game when Brumbies second-rower Sam Carter was sent to the sin-bin for continued failure to roll away in the ruck; but they could claim only three points during their one-man advantage with the second penalty goal from Brendan McKibbin, and in truth they failed to stretch their hosts at any point of the game.
The visitors had a chance of scoring a try only after a Brumbies attack broke down on the Waratahs line, the visitors toeing the loose ball ahead and Lachlan Turner, fleetingly, looking as if he might outrun Mogg before the fullback overhauled him and the ball ran dead. Drew Mitchell subsequently produced a strong short-side run with first-phase ball, fending Brumbies half-back Nic White, but then he lost the ball forward and into touch in contact.
Tempers boiled over 10 minutes from full-time, and props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander were sent to the sin-bin: Robinson for foul play and Alexander for stamping on Robinson, with the initial penalty to the Brumbies reversed.
The Brumbies iced the victory with two tries in the final 10 minutes to claim a bonus point.
Henry Speight scored the first points of the second half when he touched down in the corner after Lealifano had put replacement backrower Fontunuupule Aueluab into space at speed.
And replacement centre Robbie Coleman won a foot race after Mogg had launched a counter-attack after collecting an ill-conceived chip-kick from Israel Folau deep in the Brumbies 22.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said the game was won and lost in the opening quarter.
"Lots of penalties early, and a couple of key moments that put us down in our territory," Cheika said on Fox Sports after the game. "Second half we came out and parried for a while ... but it was very stop-start and they controlled that tempo and we weren't able to get our speed going and we paid the penalty when we tried to force it."
Cheika denied his team was "outrageously ill-disciplined", saying the early penalties that set the tone for the match "came at the key moments ... and we didn't have the pace to come back in the second half".
The coach said the Waratahs had to "accept responsibility for the game" if they were to regroup for the match against the Cheetahs. "But we'll be back," he said. "We're going to be hurt a lot by this, and so we should be, but we're going to keep working hard to get back and have lots of resilve to be better in the next game."
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand