Planet Rugby

Frustrating four for the Brumbies

05th March 2010 10:35

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Josh Valentine held by Lions

No way through: Josh Valentine

It was a frustrating 24-13 Super 14 victory for the Brumbies on Friday as they missed out on a maximum against a dogged Lions outfit in Canberra.

Despite throwing all they had at the visitors' line in added time, the 2010 play-off hopefuls just couldn't find the key to unlock that five-point gate.

Christian Lealiifano and Stephen Moore's scores accompanied an earlier penalty try, but errors from both hand and in judgment cost the hosts on the day as Dick Muir can be happy with his side's showing after rolling out a weakened line-up.

It was hardly a classic encounter with much of the action taking place following the break as stalls were being set out by players and also match official Steve Walsh. It took the Australian just three minutes to hand out his warning, the Lions front-row the ones in the firing line after an early engagement. It was not their last talking to.

But that no tolerance approach unfortunately did not free up matters as only six points were scored with just over 35 minutes gone in Australia.

The Lions got the first three of those thanks to a solid opening, which did well to silence those who thought the game would be a cakewalk for the Brumbies. Burton Francis it was with the penalty goal on eleven minutes as the visitors came out of the blocks well, capitalising on handling errors from the likes of Matt Giteau.

It took the Brumbies until that moment to finally wake up and smell that this was not going to be a foregone conclusion against the strugglers from South Africa. And once again their catalyst was the in-form winger Pat McCabe, who broke superbly from his own half after a good take from Ashley-Cooper. That ensuing rush downfield also saw George Smith and Giteau involved as the hosts began to mount some serious pressure, finally.

A barrage of possession and penalties followed for the play-off hunting Brumbies, with the Lions struggling to match their hosts at scrum-time after Giteau's leveler. That pressure ultimately brought about reset after reset which was beginning to try the patience of Walsh, who subsequently stuck to his word by showing tighthead Kevin Buys a yellow card on 28 minutes. But the vital offence was still to come.

Lions scrum-half JP Joubert just could not help himself from skirting around to Josh Valentine's feet at a wheeling set-piece and once again Walsh showed he was taking no nonsense and rightly so by running under the uprights. The simple extras were added by Giteau for a half-time scoreline of 10-3.

Thankfully the Canberra fans were given a much more entertaining 40 minutes after the break and it was a long-range Francis penalty that got the ball rolling. The former Bulls man's effort came as quite a shock as this is not the altitude-aided Pretoria that he was used to last season, but the fly-half was successful. But that only awoke the Brumbies.

McCabe again got things moving with a break downfield that Rocky Elsom did his best to add to. Those two were then aided by the supporting Stephen Hoiles, with his line bust and switch sending Christian Lealiifano over. Giteau's conversion taking it up to 17-6.

The Lions of 2009 might have wilted under the pressure after that but under new coach Muir they stood tall and pulled themselves back into the match. That came via a response finished off at a close-range ruck by diving replacement, hooker Hannes Franklin.

Just four points separated matters with a little under 25 minutes remaining but the Lions comeback was soon foiled as the Brumbies launched their own response, with a flowing move finished off wide out by opposing number two Moore's effort.

They were now looking for the bonus. But despite their best efforts, that maximum never came the way of Head Coach Andy Friend and the Lions kept their hosts to just the norm.

Man-of-the-match: Christian Lealiifano was once again strong in his new centre role for the Brumbies, but this award must go to wing Pat McCabe. Still a somewhat unknown quantity in the competition, this guy had another busy game with his stock continuing to rise.

The scorers:

For the Brumbies:
Tries: Penalty, Lealiifano, Moore
Con: Giteau 3
Pen: Giteau

For the Lions:
Tries: Franklin
Con: Francis
Pen: Francis

Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Stirling Mortlock, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Stephen Hoiles, 7 George Smith, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Salesi Maafu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Guy Shepherdson, 18 Justin Harrison, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Matt Toomua, 22 Tyrone Smith.

Lions: 15 Michael Killian, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Walter Venter, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Dusty Noble, 10 Burton Francis, 9 JP Joubert, 8 Todd Clever, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (c), 5 Willem Stoltz, 4 George Earl, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Charles Emslie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Hannes Franklin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Jacques Lombaard, 20 Jacques Coetzee, 21 Wandile Mjekevu, 22 Earl Rose.

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nathan Pearce (Australia), Angus Gardiner (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

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