Planet Rugby

Brumbies stay in semi-final race

01st May 2010 10:15

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Top of the props: Ben Alexander

The Brumbies kept their Super 14 semi-final hopes alive following a comprehensive 32-12 victory over an out-of-sorts Reds unit in Canberra on Saturday.

The bonus-point victory sees the Brumbies reducing the gap between themselves and the fourth-placed Reds to just two points. They'll need to win their remaining two matches and hope the Reds, Waratahs and Crusaders stumble if they hope to sneak into the play-offs.

The Queenslanders came into the game with history against them, having beaten the Brumbies just once in fourteen attempts, and a winless record in the nation's capital.

The writing was on the wall early on after the visitors suffered a massive double blow, losing both their locks to injury inside the opening 25 minutes. Adam Byrnes limped with off with an apparent ankle injury before Rob Simmons sustained a suspected fractured cheekbone.

Not surprisingly, the Queensland line-out was in disarray, with the Brumbies stealing a series of Reds throws. But it was the powerful Brumbies scrum which caused the Reds most pain.

The Brumbies shot out of the gate with an intensity they haven't displayed in recent weeks and in doing so caught the Reds off-guard. The accuracy, speed and physicality of their multi-phase approach, not to mention their rock-solid defence, troubled the Reds, and that was directly responsible for their first two tries.

Mark Chisholm touched down two phases after a scrum, and ten minutes later they extended that lead to fourteen points when Ben Alexander crashed over after the Reds' defensive line had been depleted through five phases.

Brumbies fly-half Matt Giteau - back to his brilliant best - slotted both conversions.

After trailing 14-0, Queensland clawed their way into the contest with two penalty goals from pivot Quade Cooper in the 26th and 33rd minute.

The Brumbies attacked the line hard late in the half but a Will Genia steal saved a near certain try and Giteau missed an easy penalty after the siren.

Two more Cooper penalties after the break narrowed the deficit to two points, but the Brumbies scored a much needed try to stem the flow after spreading the ball to Adam Ashley-Cooper out wide who broke the line before Josh Valentine picked up and darted through an easy passage to score.

Minutes later a chance for a bonus point went begging, after Rocky Elsom burst his way through a gap at pace and charged towards the last defender... had Ashley-Cooper held on to Elsom's pass, he would have scored untouched.

They finally got their bonus point with seven minutes left. Quick hands by Mitchell Chapman put Alexander over for his second try of the night and sixth for the season.

The 20-point shellacking thus preserved the Brumbies' fifteen-season undefeated record against the Reds in Super Rugby and set the scene for a thrilling five-team race to the last two semi-final berths.

Queensland are still fourth behind the Crusaders on points differential but finish the regular season in New Zealand with a must-win game against the fast-finishing Hurricanes and Highlanders.

Man of the match: For his damaging efforts in the scrum along with two tries to boot, the Brumbies prolific try-scorer Ben Alexander gets our vote.

The scorers:

For Brumbies:
Tries: Chisholm, Alexander 2, Valentine
Cons: Giteau 3
Pens: Giteau 2

For Reds:
Pens: Cooper 4

Brumbies: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Tyrone Smith, 11 Brackin Karauria-Henry, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Stephen Hoiles (c), 7 Colby Faingaa, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Mitchell Chapman, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Ben Hand, 19 Michael Hooper, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Ed Stubbs.

Reds: 15 Peter Hynes, 14 Brando Va'aulu, 13 Will Chambers, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (c), 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Adam Byrnes, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Jack Kennedy, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Sean Hardman, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Ezra Taylor, 19 Jake Schatz, 20 Ben Lucas, 21 Ben Tapuai, 22 Luke Morahan.

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)

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