A Folau Fainga’a hat-trick has inspired the Brumbies to a tough 26-21 win over the Blues in Canberra to move them to second place in the Aussie conference.
After a nervy start that saw them down 12-0, the Brumbies muscled up and aided by two yellow cards against the Blues, they worked into the game to give themselves a real chance at making up for last weeks loss.
It was the early part of the second half as they hammered the Blues that got them back into the game. It looked like the Blues would spoil the party with two penalty goals to Harry Plummer to put the Blues back in front but Fainga’a’s third try sealed the much needed win.
The Brumbies started the match under pressure unable to get out of their own half and were lucky not to go behind early to a penalty goal but Otere Black missed the shot.
The Blues would only have to wait three minutes to open the scoring with the nod from the TMO off a possible forward pass with centre TJ Faiane finding space down the left wing and got in ahead of Toni Pulu.
It looked like it was going to be one of those games with the Brumbies first real chance with the ball ending up in an intercept try to Caleb Clarke under the sticks. The wide ball from the Brumbies was on but Christian Lealiifano’s pass unfortunately found Clarke and it was 12-0 in less than ten minutes after Black’s conversion.
But they managed to settle into the game and after a yellow card to Blues prop Alex Hodgman for an off the ball hit, the Brumbies went to their main weapon and Folau Fainga’a rolled it over for his eighth try of the season.
The Blues extended their lead to ten points with a penalty goal from Black but after that they found themselves under pressure with the Brumbies on attack with the aid of a few penalties.
With five minutes remaining in the half, the home side had the Blues on the rack after two scrum penalties and it was James Slipper who would score after pouncing on a loose ball and Lealiifano’s conversion made it a three point game, which seemed unlikely after the opening minutes.
And just on half time, they spurned a penalty shot at goal that would have leveled the score but they were unable to come up with more points as Joe Powell was held up by Tom Robinson to leave it at 15-12 to the Blues.
The second half was in contrast to the first as the Brumbies had all the ball to start with and they had the Blues under pressure in their own 22 and they kept conceding penalties to have them on a warning from referee Damon Murphy.
After their 12th penalty, Murphy had enough of the Blues infringing and it was their other starting prop, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, getting a ten-minute rest this time.
And finally the dam broke for the Brumbies and Fainga’a had his second of the game, which could have easily been a penalty try but Lealiifano was able to convert from wide out to make it 19-15.
A rare chance with the ball for the Blues had them down the Brumbies end and with a penalty goal for replacement Harry Plummer, it was a one point match and then his second penalty goal five minutes later had the Blues back in front with their replacements starting to make a real difference as they bent the line with their ball running.
The Brumbies scrum had been a real problem for the Blues all night and after another penalty for the front row popping up, the Brumbies went to Plan A and the Blues had no match for it and Fainga’a rolled over for his hat trick try and 10th of the season to put the Brumbies back in front at 26-21 after Lealiifano’s third conversion of the night with just on ten minutes remaining.
The Brumbies sensed another try that could have given them a bonus point and top spot in the Aussie conference but the Blues held them out but it was enough as they came away with a 26-21 win and move them to second in the conference with a crucial game against the Sunwolves at home next Sunday.
The Game Changer
The Brumbies had the Blues under the pump early in the second half and the Blues were able to nudge back in front, but Fainga’a’s third try got them back in front with ten to go.
The G&GR MOTM
Folau Fainga’a. A hat trick has put his FRU membership in jeopardy.
Folau Fainga’a has surely cemented his starting position for the Wallabies. Pete Samu had his usual big game with heavy work around the ruck up against Akira Ioane. Rory Arnold left the field in the first half with an injury that hopefully isn’t too bad.
Score & Scorers
Tries: Fainga’a 3, Slipper
Conversions: Lealiifano 3
Tries: Faiane, Clarke
Penalties: Black, Plummer 2
18 mins – Hodgman (Blues) – Yellow
49 mins – Tu’ungafasi (Blues) – Yellow