Brumbies succeed in mission to limit Folau
March 16, 2014
Israel Folau was kept quiet for most of the match © Getty Images
It was a case of mission accomplished as the Brumbies found a way to stifle the enormous threat from NSW Waratahs attacking ace Israel Folau.
The Brumbies' inside backs went in with an all-or-nothing plan to rush up into the ribs of their opposite numbers to prevent the ball from making it out wide to lurking fullback Folau in their 28-23 Super Rugby home win on Saturday night.
Matt Toomua produced a man-of-the-match performance at five eighth and set a blistering line speed in defence and launching himself into some bone-rattling hits that will leave Waratahs playmakers Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley bruised for days.
When Toomua wasn't rattling ribs in defence, he was slipping inside a step to steal an intercept. The tactic ensured Folau didn't get a look in until the Brumbies were a man down with a player in the bin in the 74th minute.
The Wallabies No.15 made the most of that opportunity, brushing off four defenders to score his sixth try of the season and giving the Waratahs a sniff at the win - but it proved to be too little, too late.
While rush defence is a tactic the Brumbies employ on a weekly basis, director of rugby Laurie Fisher admitted it was a special performance from the likes of Toomua and centre Pat McCabe.
"It was across the board, but particularly our inside backs were outstanding at getting in amongst their ball players," Fisher said. "The capacity to do that for a full game was telling as well. Some weeks you execute it better than others."
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said it was a tactic his side had prepared for, and Beale tried to slow that line speed down by implementing a couple of deft chip kicks behind the Brumbies' line early in the match to keep them guessing.
"We probably should have persisted with it actually, done one or two more," Cheika said. "We knew that they were going to come with line speed and they're good at it. They rushed up hard, they played on the edge and they got the rewards from that in the first half."
But Cheika was also quick to signal a warning to other teams contemplating using the tactic against his side. "You can do that, and if you're not good at it you can get carved up," he said.
While the Brumbies will be buoyed with the win over their fierce rivals, it may have come at a cost, with star winger Henry Speight to go in for X-rays on his jaw on Sunday. "There would be some serious doubt over him at the moment," Fisher said.