Brumbies show brute Force at Leichhardt - Green and Gold Rugby
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Brumbies show brute Force at Leichhardt

Brumbies show brute Force at Leichhardt

The Brumbies showcased a masterclass in depth and defence, winning 0-24 against the Western Force in Sydney last night. The match marks the first time since 2007 that the Force have been held scoreless in a game. 

Going into the match, the Force were hopeful of making history, having not tasted victory over the men from the capital since 2013, a losing streak longer than against any other Australian opposition. They had been showing some outstanding form despite two close losses to the Waratahs and Reds, and some fans had felt that an upset was on hand, given the Brumbies’ recent loss of Noah Lolesio to injury.

The Brumbies, meanwhile, are still to drop a game in the competition, winning at the death against the Waratahs last week, in addition to a strong performance against the Rebels in week one. With Lolesio out for the remainder of the season, the Brumbies were turning to Bayley Kuenzle to fill the void at ten. Despite this being his first run on cap, Kuenzle (or BK, as named by Dan McKellar), had showed a lot of potential in guiding the Brumbies to victory last week, on top of actually challenging Lolesio for the run-on playmaker role during the NRC last year, and during pre-season.

Either way, the prospect of an exciting clash beckoned at Leichhardt Oval.

The Match

If the Force were hopeful of starting with a bang against their more fancied opponents, they unfortunately became aware of the challenge in front of them in the second minute of the game. Off the back of a great scrum, Joe Powell combined with Tevita Kuridrani and Rob Valetini to put Tom Wright in space, break right through the Force’s defence to score. BK however failed to make the conversion, but the Brumbies were up, 0-5.

This sudden jolt seemed to wake the Force, winning the ball back quickly and pressing the Brumbies danger zone, however the Brumbies pressure at the ruck saw them concede a critical turnover, with the short side of the field open in space. Samu combined with Wright again, and despite some desperate cover defence, the Brumbies numbers were too strong and Irae Simone scored in the exact same spot Wright had three minutes before. BK converted and suddenly, only five minutes in, and the Force were down 0-12.

If the Force didn’t had any indication of what they were up against, they certainly did now. The first five minutes had seen them try to turn to their attacking weapons and outrun the Brumbies, however not only had they been shut down effectively, they had been shown up on cover defence and support play. After this second try however, it was clear they needed to change strategy, and that they did.

The Force decided to slow the game right down and turned to their forwards, who began to show some early dominance over the Brumbies scrum. The strategy proved effective, as the Brumbies now found themselves defending against a more considered attack. The arm-wrestle had begun.

The Force almost looked to grab a try back when Marcel Brache found himself breaching the Brumbies defence in the 22nd minute. However, the Brums were up to the task and were able to shut down the play. The Force, by this stage were starting to show dominance in both territory and possession. However, with every attacking play, they could not breach the Brumbies defence time, after time, AFTER TIME. The Brumbies also looked to take advantage, when they got the ball, but by this stage the Force’s famous blue wall had now woken up, with Henry Stowers making a nuisance of himself in the game.

Eventually, the armwrestle led to the score being unchanged at halftime, with the Brumbies two tries separating the teams in what had been an entertaining half of rugby.

Halftime: Western Force 0 – 12 Brumbies

It was clear whoever scored first in the second half was going to be critical. Off the back of an excellent bit of play from Irae Simone, much like the start of the first half, the Force’s defence was caught napping on the short side in the 42nd minute, with Will Miller taking advantage of Bryan Ralyston having to come off his wing to beat the cover defence and score. BK was able to convert from out wide, and the Force found themselves down 0-19.

It turned out to be critical moment in the game, as the rain started to come down. The match devolved, once again, into the arm wrestle, with neither side able to take advantage and convert points. The only difference between the sides at this point had been the Brumbies being able to take advantage at those critical moments.

As the game hit the 60th minute, the Brumbies decided to empty their reserve bench and push hard. Five minutes later, the Force did the same. But that five minutes proved the difference.

The reserves of the Brumbies got to work, and found themselves inside the Force’s twenty two at the 65th minute with a lineout in their favour. The Force reserves came on to find themselves on the backfoot immediately, having to face up against the Brumbies now infamous rolling maul. The result went as expected, and Connal McInerney scored the try which put a bow on the bonus point victory.

The Force kept fighting until the end, and were able to stop several more attacking plays, but eventually the whistle was blown and the damage was done.

Fulltime: Western Force 0 – 24 Brumbies 

To put it simply, it was a disappointing night for the Force. Looking to create history with their first win against the Brumbies in seven years, they unfortunately made the wrong type of history in that were held scoreless for the first time since 2007, when they lost 53-0 against the Crusaders in Christchurch. However, unlike that drubbing thirteen years ago, this scoreline REALLY didn’t reflect how hard they fought.

The only thing separating them from the Brumbies was that they started both halves very slowly, and that they struggled to execute at key moments in the game. That is something this team is definitely capable of, especially when you consider they did the exact same thing to many of these Brumbies players when they were in Canberra Vikings colours in the NRC Grand Final last year. They will host the Rebels next week, as they continue to search for that first win. Frankly, I anticipate we won’t have to wait long, as their dogged determination in every single game is something to be admired.

Staying on the topic of the NRC with the Brumbies, coach Dan McKellar admitted post this game to that in regards to  BK at flyhalf, “during the week, NRC, [and] pre-season it was touch and go between Noah and BK and Reesjan (Pasitoa), and Noah got first opportunity and took it and BK got an opportunity tonight and took it. It’s pleasing that we’re getting that development right.”

While the talent definitely stepped up, the Brumbies also beat this Force in several more ways: they trusted the development talent they had to perform and deliver a result, and they also had looked like they’d done their homework on the Force; shutting down their attacking prowess through gritty defence, holding their strong set piece at bay and taking advantage of defensive holes to deliver results. It was a smart, clinical display of well-structured rugby, but also showed the Brumbies weren’t taking this game for granted at all.

The result sees the Brumbies claim first place on the ladder. They certainly will have a fight on their hands when they host the Reds, who currently sit in second, next week in Canberra.

The Game Changer

Will Miller’s try at the start of the second half. Until that point the Force had been gritty and determined to stay in the fight, but this was the try that pushed the result beyond any doubt.


While Bayley Kuenzle had a great night at ten for the Brumbies, shoutout must also go to Pete Samu in the forwards for being instrumental in setting up tries and adding some valuable grunt in the defence.

Wallaby Watch

Bryan Ralston continues to show great composure for the Force, and the combination of Nick Frisby and Jonno Lance is improving every single week as well. For the Brums, Irae Simone again stands out yet again for his composure and kicking game, which proved critical for the final try of the match.

The Details

Crowd: ???

Western Force 0

Tries: N/A

Cons: N/A

Goals: N/A

Cards: N/A

Brumbies 24

Tries: Wright, Simone, Miller, McInerney

Cons: Kuenzle 2/4

Goals: N/A

Cards: N/A

  • Brisneyland Local

    Afternoon GAGR’s. Hope you are all enjoying your Sunday and it isnt too wet and cold. My random thoughts about The Force vs Ponies:
    – You never want to play the Ponies after thy have had a crap performance the week before. I thought the Ponies looked pretty average against eh Tah’s, so the came out to set the record straight.
    – The score doesnt reflect how close that match actually appeaered. Well to me anyway. I thought the Force showed some serious starch in their attack. They just couldnt penetrate the Ponies defence.
    – The Ponies lineout and rolling naul is very hard to stop.
    – Pete Samu was my man of the match. Straight in to the G&G for me.
    – Nick Frisby and Jono Lance look very good. Rennie has some serious competition for pretty much every position. That is a great postion to be in.
    – HArd to believe that Slipper is a bench starter. Not sure if that was due to his concussion last week. But god he is good.
    Over to you GAGR’s.

    • Timbo

      I was going for the Force and turned off at the 65-70min mark but observations:
      Pretty sure Slipper was the reason the Nags scrum suddenly started working. He has matured amazingly since joining NSW B team(joke, don’t hang me). Samu was everywhere, the new 10 looked comfortable, Simone was a completely different player from when he was playing with the NSW A team. Tactical kicking well and truly improved. Valetini was also dominant around the ground and showed great hands in those first two tries. Wright is a winger for the future too. Can sniff out a try.
      The Force have a good team and are only a week or so away from their first victory. Looking forward to seeing Kahui fold someone.
      Reffing was better but still inconsistent.

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      It was pretty clear he Frisby-Lance combination didn’t gel yet. Frisby was half a second of the pace, just missed the first tackle, just to slow at the breakdown, passes were about 10 cm off etc. He will get better with more game time. The other changes to the Force backline in my view didn’t improve the unit. Last week Lance played flat and put players through gaps, this week there were no line-breaks and no offloads. With time these combination may improve but it will take time. I have no problem with the Force backing their maul to go for the try, the Brumbies were however too good.

      What Force needed was someone that can break the line, offload or combinations. This will not happen overnight.

  • Steve

    Good performance from the Brumbies, glad they stepped up their game from last week although as stated before, 24-0 wasn’t really reflective of the closeness of the game itself.

    One thing I am really pleased about – The Kiwi teams and ABs have always had this amazing knack that rookies come in and look like they’ve been in the team for years, whereas Australian teams (and the Wallabies!) seem to have to go through this painful levelling-up process. I believe it’s indicative of the standard of the team around them and the systems in place.

    The Brumbies have really got one of these systems now. Players like Kuenzle, Lolesio, Will Miller, Nick Frost, Jahrome Brown have all been able to step into the team and people are immediately asking why they didn’t get a shot earlier. This is the standard Aus rugby needs to set across all the teams if we are going to get anywhere near NZ again.

    • Nicholas Wasiliev

      I agree. I think what NZ does so well is they have a fantastic pathway system with the ITM Cup, but they also have, like you mention, a fantastic conditioning program once players become Super Rugby players.
      I think, here in Australia, we are starting to see the benefits of pathway investment through the Junior Wallabies program, but also having competitions like the NRC. In places like QLD, the West and the ACT, it’s no coincidence the best performing NRC teams are there.
      I think what the Brumbies have always done so well is, unlike the Reds and Tahs, they make sure that they keep the combined squad developing. DMcK mentioned that the 10 position was basically a three-way horse race between Lolesio, BK and Pasitoa. So something tells me they were not only competing for positions, but working in close proximity and learning off each other. The same can’t be said for the way the Tahs treated Mason behind BF.
      I think it’s changing though, given Harrison and Donaldson are working very close, and we’re starting to see similar things at the Reds too. While Cheika’s era was a disappointment, one positive that came out of it was him demanding SR teams be more collaborative in terms of sharing knowledge, and we’re starting to see that. It’ll only lead to better things, for both our SR teams and the Wallabies.

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks Nick a nice write up and spot on in your analysis. The Brumbies defence was very good. They were scrambling at times but seemed to all know what to do and even better they seemed to trust each other. The difference in team work between the Brumbies and what we saw of the Tahs on Friday is night and day. Brumbies are playing as a team and it shows.
    Unlucky for the Force as while they didn’t deserve to win, They also were better than the final score showed.
    Looking forward to Reds vs Brums next week. Should be a good game

  • Perth girl

    Disappointing result for the Force but they never gave up. They are missing Prior as halfback and captain. Just to note this was Frisby’s first game with Lance so I expect their combination to improve. It was good to see a few Force fans at the game. Well played Brumbies, they certainly looked a class above the other Aussie teams playing this weekend

  • Huw Tindall

    What’s Tom Wright got to do to get a mention in the MOTM and Wallaby Watch. The guy has serious pace, footwork and ball skills plus can lay on a tackle. He’s my number 1 pick for Wallaby bolter. Remember it’s only his second season after coming back from League after school boy Union honours. I’m not sure there is any one position across the Wallaby 15 which is locked in yet which in itself is amazing. Not even John Eales medalist Marika or million dollar Man Hooper are safe IMO. Rennie and Johnson have their selection work cut out for them. Talent for days, just need them to keep developing and mature into world class players.

    • Geoffro

      With you 100% on Wright,he is the goods ( he manage d to pick up MOTM over at Rugby 365) with 131 mtrs,13 carries,6 defenders btn,plus he can defend as you say.The likes of DHP and Hodge need to be nervously looking over their shoulders at selection time.

    • Rugby Truth

      The trouble is, and I really hope Rennie and Johnson are savvy enough to ignore it, the Australian rugby landscape is run out of Sydney – corporate hq, and media.

      Listening to certain commentators – you know who you are – they’d have you believe;
      – Maddox is is a shoe-in for the Wallabies 15
      – Simmons and Hannigan for the locks
      – Harrison is the greatest 5/8 in Australia
      – Angus Bell and HJ-H should be props
      – Swinton is the enforcer at 6
      – and as always, hooper should be 7.

      If you picked on form, we should be looking at a wallabies team with no waratahs at all.

      • Brumby Runner

        The commentary on the box, here on GAGR and in the press sticks in my craw as well.

        Maddocks is an excellent full back and a star at the U20s. He is a bit out of form atm and would be behind both Balks and DHP for the Wallaby spot.

        Simmons and Hanigan are a pair of powder puffs. Always were and always will be. Neither should be near the Wallabies.

        Harrison can certainly kick goals, and has perhaps looked a little more confident with each outing, but he is way behind other options for the Wallabies No 10 spot. Currently, Toomua, Lolesio and JOC, with a maybe about Keunzle who looks levels above WH in talent and execution.

        Bell and HJH could well be in the Wallabies front row in a couple to a few years time, but atm Bell cannot hold up a SR level scrum and HJH is caught behing Ala’alatoa and Tupou.

        Swinton has an angry face but very little to back it up. He was good at lock in the U20s but doesn’t rate against Valetini, Wright, ASY, or even Kemeny at No 6.

        Hooper is playing as a real No 7 lately and looks much better for it. Would be in a contest with Wright for the Wallaby spot.

        Far too much hyperbole comes out of the Tahs supporters camp about their players.

        • Rugby Truth

          I’d even put Cusack and Miller ahead of Hooper, especially at break-down time.

ACT Brumbies

Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. Dropped a debut novel last year...

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