Planet Rugby

Brumbies still in with a shout

09th May 2009 10:34

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Stirling Mortlock

Stirling Mortlock: Leading points scorer in Super Rugby

The Brumbies passed a true test of character by beating the Blues 37-15 in an explosive Super 14 encounter in Canberra on Saturday.

In a game of two halves, the Brumbies secured the vital four-try bonus point victory which lifted them to provisional fifth place on the congested ladder, leapfrogging the Sharks in the process.

Out of sorts for much of the first half, the Brumbies answered those who continue to doubt their credentials by sparking to life and running in five tries after the break that ultimately killed off any hopes the Blues may have had of making this year's play-offs.

The Blues looked the better team in the first spell but could only manage a converted try and a penalty to fly-half Jimmy Gopperth. His five-pointer came in the 28th minute when another scintillating break from Isaia Toeava provided him with a nicely timed delayed pass before the Blues' pivot dived beside the posts.

Gopperth had earlier picked up three points that was countered by a cheeky drop-goal by opposite number Matt Toomua and a further penalty to Stirling Mortlock, who was chasing the title of highest points scorer in Super Rugby.

At 10-6 down at half-time and although only four points down , the Brumbies looked set for an upset at home, especially after the Blues ended the first spell with more enthusiasm and ideas with ball in hand.

That was all about to change.

The visitors were outclassed, outmuscled and completely outgunned in the second half and one wondered just what on earth Brumbies coach Andy Friend said to his team in the changing room.

It was a cold night at Canberra Stadium, but the Brumbies were on fire.

The Brumbies emerged a different side after the break and Mortlock finally nailed his record four minutes in.

From a big Brumbies scrum they went blind and Mortlock got outside Joe Rokocoko to slide over out wide. Sure enough, he nailed the conversion off the post to earn a rousing ovation from his home crowd.

The Wallabies captain moved past former All Blacks and Crusaders pivot Andrew Mehrtens' record of 990 points. It further galvanised the hosts who rattled in three more tries between the 50th and 60th minutes.

While their impact was limited by their first-half tactics, the Brumbies loose trio, lead by George Smith, were back to their best after the break and their impact was patent as the hosts began to dominate the tackle point.

Another solid Brumbies scrum and set move saw Francis Fainifo dive over, half-back Patrick Phibbs scurried over from a ruck then reserve hooker Huia Edmonds sold a dummy and stretched out to score for the bonus point.

They lost Mortlock in that movement when a collision with Tony Woodcock left both on the ground, although Woodcock recovered to play on. Toomua's conversion made it 32-10 with 20 minutes left.

Winger Rene Ranger sparked a mini Blues fightback when he stormed onto a chip and sent All Blacks flyer Rokocoko over.

But it was shortlived when Brumbies reserve Sitaleki Timani scored the Brumbies' fifth, five minutes from time.

The Brumbies' chances of a semi-final berth will now be decided in a must-win encounter against the Chiefs in Hamilton next week.

Man of the match: The Brumbies were almost completely out of the match in the first half but the same could be said for the Blues in the second half as the Brumbies ran in five tries - four after being fired up by Stirling Mortlock's try that sparked them into action. And lets not forget that small record he broke along the way...

The scorers:

For Brumbies:

Tries: Mortlock, Fainifo, Phibbs, Edmonds, Timani

Cons: Mortlock 2, Toomua

Pen: Mortlock

Drop: Toomua

For Blues:

Tries: Gopperth, Rokocoko

Cons: Gopperth

Pen: Gopperth

Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Francis Fainifo, 13 Tyrone Smith, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 Stirling Mortlock, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Patrick Phibbs, 8 Stephen Hoiles (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Mitchell Chapman, 5 Peter Kimlin, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Guy Shepherdson, 2 Huia Edmonds, 1 Ben Alexander.

Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Nic Henderson, 18 Sitaleki Timani, 19 Henry Vanderglas, 20 Joshua Holmes, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Francis Fainifo.

Blues: 15 Rudi Wulf, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Isaia Toeava, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Kurtis Haiu/Andrew van der Heijden, 4 Jay Williams/Dean Budd, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Dean Budd, 19 Andrew van der Heijden, 20 Grayson Hart, 21 Jamie Helleur/Winston Stanley, 22 Paul Williams.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (NZ)

Touch judges: Vinny Munro (NZ), Glenn Newman (NZ)

TMO: Shane McDermott (NZ)

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