Brumbies win ugly against Jake White's Sharks
May 10, 2014
The Brumbies' Fotu Auelua was strong on his first Super Rugby start of the season
© Getty Images
The Brumbies have claimed an emotional victory over the Sharks at GIO Stadium in Canberra, the Australian conference leaders defeating the competition leaders in awful conditions.
The Brumbies had plenty to prove after Jake White walked out on them last year midway through his four-year contract and subsequently joined the Sharks. And prove it they did, with Sam Carter crossing for the only try of the match, off a short ball from Nic White, to assume an all-important 10-point buffer in the 65th minute. It was a bridge the Sharks did not look like crossing in the final 15 minutes.
The niggly top-of-the-table clash was played out exactly as had been expected with the sides each adopting the game plan of the Rugby World Cup-winning former Springboks coach. Both teams were desperate to play in the other side's half, the match featuring more than 90 open-play kicks, while the defence was rigid, the hits big, and the breakdown fiercely contested.
The respective goal kickers, Christian Leali'ifano and Francois Steyn, each missed three penalty goal attempts, while the Sharks pivot also failed to find touch from a penalty, as did Nic White for the Brumbies, twice, and kicked out on the full twice from restarts in a mistake-riddled contest. But the Brumbies limited their errors and dominated the kicking duel in the second half, with Jesse Mogg finding his rhythm and winger Robbie Coleman chasing everything down, and that proved critical to the result.
The Brumbies won an arm-wrestle in Canberra (video available only in Australia)
Ben Mowen described the victory as "hugely rewarding".
"Any time you get a win against the Sharks, it's good," the Brumbies' captain said. "Especially in the context of this year where they've been leading the competition."
Nic White was a little less guarded when asked what the result meant to the Brumbies. "We said all week that it wasn't about Jake," he said. "But it was important that we showed him we've evolved and we're past Jake."
Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis said, simply, that "we had opportunities to score but we couldn't ... just not enough for us in the end."
Jake White said the result "was always going to be one score".
"It hurts when you lose, but tonight I was always going to win whatever way it went," he said, proud of his legacy in Canberra. "When we had the momentum we lost it; and when they had the momentum they took charge of it. I'm sure we'll play them again this year."
Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher applauded his side's mastery of the wet conditions. "I thought our back three were superb under the high ball. They didn't shell one. So in terms of grabbing the game by the balls, I thought we were fantastic."
Cobus Reinach was among the best performers for the Sharks © Getty Images
Leali'ifano opened the scoring with an early penalty goal, while Steyn pushed two early attempts out wide before nailing one in the 14th minute. Leali'ifano then knocked over a second three-pointer and then missed a third attempt as the Brumbies claimed a 6-3 lead at half-time. The sides traded a penalty goal apiece after the break, before the Brumbies began to press with their territory advantage and finally broke the try-scoring drought when Carter went under the posts to extend the lead to 16-6. Steyn narrowed the gap to seven points with eight minutes to go, but they fell short of finishing the comeback and claimed only a bonus point for losing by seven points or fewer.
Three players went off in the first half for blood or concussion concerns, but only Joe Tomane failed to return. The Wallabies winger was taken to hospital for x-rays on a cheekbone injury that has put him in doubt for the Brumbies' South African tour.