Planet Rugby

Taumoepeau scores big for the Blues

10th February 2007 10:38

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Anthony Tuitavake

Anthony Tuitavake goes on the burst for the Blues

Prop Saimone Taumoepeau scored with barely seconds on the clock left and Isa Nacewa slotted the angled conversion to give the Blues a last-grasp 17-15 Super 14 Round Two win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.

The win, in which the Blues scored two tries to none, sees the Auckland-based franchise move up to second place in the standings.

The lightning flashed, the thunder rolled and the rain came pouring down in drought-stricken Canberra. Good for the farmers, not good for rugby and at the end the bitter cud of defeat for the Brumbies to swallow.

Defeat happened at the end of 80 minutes. As the siren shrieked to sound the end, the Blues rumbled through to score and from five metres in from touch Isa Nacewa sent his conversion flying into the night sky. It looked to be missing the far upright on his right but it swung just enough back inside to go over for the conversion which won the match, which led to unabashed glee for the Blues who charged about, hugged and frizzed Nacewa's hair.

It was a great finish if you were in the Blues camp, a crashing disappointment if you were corralled with the Brumbies, and a wonderful bit of theatre if you were unattached.

Two tries to nil sounds fair result.

There was an irony of sorts in the ending. The Brumbies had not been penalised once in the whole first half, and in the second half just four times - compared to 10 penalties against the Blues. But that fourth penalty cost the home side the match.

There was less than a minute to go when the Brumbies lock and captain Alistair Campbell was penalised for an infringement at a tackle when the Blues were attacking and desperate for quick ball. The referee called Campbell over and sent him to the sin bin.

The Blues kicked out five metres from the Brumbies' line. They had tried this tactic before and been shunted back by the Brumbies' eight. Now the Blues faced seven and one of the bigger men missing.

They threw to captain Troy Flavell, formed a watertight maul and drove it over the line for a try credited to Saimone Taumoepeau. That made it 15-all till Nacewa's conversion.

All the points for the Brumbies, a famously creative side, came from five penalties by Julian Huxley. But Huxley also missed three - one late in the match - and two silly drop attempts. But, also late in the match, Stephen Larkham dropped at goal and the ball bounced back off the crossbar. Those were chances which could have won the match, even though the Blues were having the better of the second half.

One of Huxley's missed kick may have been weather-affected in a strange way. Greg Rawlinson had been penalised to the left of the posts as Huxley looked at them. He lined up the kick, did his posturing and moved in to kick. As he moved in the sky lit up as the lightning flashed. He pulled the kick slightly to the left.

Apart from missed kicks the Brumbies, even with the clever old firm of Gregan and Larkham back together, did not look like scoring a try whereas the Blues had a couple of McAlister-fuelled chances to score more tries.

The worst of individual bad luck befell Sydney University's Peter Playford, playing on the left wing for the Brumbies for the very first time. His match lasted only a few minutes till, in tackling, his head clashed with Larkham's head and Mark Gerrard played the rest of the match.

The weather played a big part, forcing the players to be more conservative in their approach and still squeezing errors out of them.

Huxley's white boot kicked two early penalty goals for tackle infringements and the Brumbies led 6-0.

Then Luke McAlister of the powerful and speedy legs burst through Gregan's tackle and inside George Smith. Running straight he passed inside to Nacewa on his right and flyhalf raced the 22 metres to score in a great position. He then converted his try off a blue tower and after 20 minutes the Blues led 7-6 and the rain came down.

When Anthony Tuitavake was penalised for using a "swinging arm" in a tackle around the neck, Huxley kicked a magnificent long kick to put the Brumbies back in the lead at 9-7. They stayed in the lead till just after 980 minutes had elapsed.

Just before the break McAlister went galloping through Guy Shepherdson on another telling break.

Early in the second half John Afoa was penalised for collapsing a Blues scrum under pressure and Huxley made it 12-7.

The first time that the Brumbies were penalised in the match Nacewa goaled. 12-10 but Huxley made it 15-10 when Angus Macdonald was penalised at a tackle. That is how the scored stayed for about 20 minutes.

The Brumbies had their best chance to score a try when Larkham grubbered. Gerrard kneed the bouncing ball ahead but into touch-in-goal. It was not really a threatening moment.

Things happened in these late stages of the match.

Justin Collins may have been lucky not to have been sent to the sin bin for a spiteful stamp that hurt Campbell's ankle and Flavell may have been lucky to stay on when he pulled down lofted Adam Wallace-Harrison in a line-out.

Larkham missed a drop and the Brumbies pack destroyed the Blues scrum and for the second time won a tighthead. The Brumbies repulsed a post-penalty maul and the Brumbies shut down efforts by Nacewa and McAlister to break.

Then came that last attack, the last penalty, the last line-out, the last maul and the Blues try and conversion to win the match.

It was the first time the Blues had won in Canberra since 2001 when it was also the Brumbies' first home match. Two droughts were broken on the same Saturday evening.

Afterwards Flavell praised his side for digging deep and Campbell blamed himself - "a silly mistake on my behalf".

Man of the Match: Julien Huxley, Stephen Larkham and George Smith were mostly very good. Isa Nacewa was good throughout and kicked that nerve-jarring kick, Jerome Kaino was strong and our Man of the Match Luke McAlister was brilliant - running with the ball, kicking the ball miles and tackling in deadly fashion.

The scorers:

For the Brumbies:

Pens: Huxley 5

For the Blues:

Tries: Nacewa, Taumoepeau

Cons: Nacewa 2

Pen: Nacewa

Yellow card: Alister Campbell (Brumbies, 79 - professional foul, slapping ball down)

Teams:

Brumbies: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Clyde Rathbone, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 Peter Playford, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan; 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Julian Salvi, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Alistair Campbell (c), 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Jeremy Paul, 1 Nic Henderson.

Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Salesi Ma'asu, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Jone Tawake, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Matt Carraro, 22 Mark Gerrard

Blues: 15 George Pisi, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Isa Nacewa, 9 David Gibson, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Angus Macdonald, 5 Troy Flavell (c), 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau.

Replacements: 16 Chris Heard, 17 Nick White, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Justin Collins, 20 Steve Devine, 21 David Holwell, 22 Ben Atiga

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)

Touch judges: Christie du Preez (South Africa), Stuart Dickinson (Australia)

Television match official: Andrew Lindsay (Australia)

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