Waratahs vs Brumbies - things just got very interesting at ANZ... - Green and Gold Rugby
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Waratahs vs Brumbies – things just got very interesting at ANZ…

Waratahs vs Brumbies – things just got very interesting at ANZ…

Now that’s what I call a round of rugby!

Following up the incredibly entertaining Reds-Force match was not going to be easy, but low and behold, the Brumbies and Tahs did it!

The Brumbies claimed an incredible last gasp 23-24 victory over the Waratahs in Sydney last night, in a match that had literally everything. The reaction I’ve been seeing online from many Tahs fans has been negative: they choked, Simmons is a bad skipper, no direction, etc. You know, the usual buzzwords. You won’t be getting any of that here. This was, in my opinion, the best performance by the Waratahs in years, and really shows how dangerous this squad of players can be once they finally start getting wins.

The Brumbies came into this game as overwhelming favourites, having started the original Super Rugby season with five wins from six games, before following it up by beating a fast-finishing Rebels side in round one of Super Rugby AU. The team has been riding a wave of momentum since Dan McKellar took charge in 2018, going from middle of the table contenders in an under performing conference to last year being genuine title contenders.

The Waratahs, meanwhile, are in the middle of a much needed re-build, with new coach Rob Penney and his team taking the Reds route and starting to build talent for the future. A close loss to the Reds in round one was followed by a clutch win against a dangerous Force side in round two, with a fantastic second half performance that demonstrated a level of maturity around the game plan that we hadn’t been seen so far this year.

And so, these rivals clashed once again on a very dewy night in Sydney.


The battle for scrum dominance was one of the many highlights of this game


The game started very much how many expected, with the Brums winning back the ball soon after kick-off and working their way into the Waratahs twenty-two. The home side looked to be taking a more aggressive approach to their defence, however a fantastic cross kick from Noah Lolesio saw Will Harrison fumble the ball in goal and Tom Cusack fell on the ball to give the away side the first points in the game. Lolesio failed to convert, but the Brumbies were looking dangerous already, 0-5.

This was a critical moment in the game, as the response of the Tahs would be critical if they wanted to keep pace. Off the kick-off, the Tahs defence immediately got to work, and began to put considerable pressure on the Brums. When James Slipper was forced off with a concussion injury, the home side were able to regain the ball off the scrum and an upbeat tempo saw the Brumbies pinged for being offside. Will Harrison took the penalty goal, and the Tahs were on the board, 3-5.

Four minutes later, the Brumbies were pinged for being off-side again, and Harrison stepped up and converted another penalty to give the homeside the lead for the first time, 6-5. Just before the 20th minute, Jack Maddocks then passed the defensive line, and although the Brumbies were able to regather, they found themselves down a man when repeated infringements saw Andy Muirhead sent to the bin for ten.

The Waratahs turned to the maul to give the Brumbies a taste of their own medicine, and a genius move from Mitch Short saw Tom Horton peel around the maul and dive over to score a try on debut. Suddenly, with the try converted, the Waratahs were up 13-5, and had the Brumbies utterly rattled.


Is this what good footy looks like?

The Waratahs were also starting to show them up at scrumtime again, with the hosts starting to pull penalties over their more fancied opponents. At the 28th minute, off the back of more mistakes from the Brumbies, Harrison produced the try of the game with an excellent cross-field kick to James Ramm, who took advantage of the overlap and scored in the corner. Harrison converted, and the Tahs pushed out to a fifteen point lead. The fans were up in arms. This was proper champagne rugby.

The night got worse for the Brumbies soon afterwards, when in the 32nd minute Noah Lolesio went down with a bad hamstring injury, ruling him out for the rest of the match. The Brumbies turned to young gun Bayley Kuenzle, who started to immediately bring a bit more control and discipline to the backline. With them chasing the game, the Brumbies went to clutch-mode, and suddenly found themselves with penalty down on the Waratahs line. Turning to their maul, they were rewarded with a try to Folau Fainga’a. Kuenzle failed to convert, and the score was 20-10.

Suddenly, like a switch had been flicked, the Brumbies suddenly switched the tempo up. The Waratahs defence held strong until the 37th minute, when Tom Wright bust through on the short side again. Support arrived, and Rob Valentini picked the ball at pace to produce another barging try. Kuenzle converted, and suddenly the Waratahs lead had been whittled down to three points. The Brumbies attacked again, however the Tahs were able to hold them out until the hooter sounded, and the teams headed off for the oranges, ending a fantastic first half of footy.

Halftime Score – NSW Waratahs 20-17 Brumbies

Last week, the Waratahs came out a different side in the second half, and much like they did against the Force, they came out determined and focused. With an opportunity to take a critical win not only for their campaign, but for the confidence of this young team, they certainly needed it. The Waratahs worked their way into the Brumbies territory, and sustained pressure led to another penalty. Harrison converted, and the Waratahs were up 23-17.

The second half then turned into a real arm-wrestle. Both teams turned to their reserves, emptying their benches to try and gain some dominance. While the Brumbies looked dangerous every time they got the ball, the Waratahs were beginning to show them up at set piece, with their scrum disrupting the Brumbies. However, the most impressive performance was in the lineout, with the Tahs winning SEVEN lineouts against the throw. Add to this, Karmichael Hunt looked to be injecting himself into the game, breaking the line on several occasions and combining with young gun Joey Walton.

In the last ten minutes, the Brumbies finally started to challenge the Waratahs in general play. However, with every scrum and every lineout, the Waratahs would steal back the ball and boot it away, looking to pin the Brumbies down in their own half. The game was on a knife-edge, and despite the fact that they had somehow been outplayed for most of the game, the Brumbies were still in sight of winning.

Finally, in the 77th minute, over the back of sustained pressure in the Waratahs twenty-two and eleven phases  of forward play, Isaak Fines suddenly switched the point of attack and made his way through a gap to score right next to the sticks. Kuenzle wasted no time with the conversion, and suddenly, against all the odds, the Brumbies were somehow ahead, 23-24.

The Waratahs desperately looked to try and win the ball back, but the Brumbies kept it close and tight to wind down the clock, and as the hooter sounded, kicked it into to touch to to snatch the most unlikely of victories.

Fulltime Score – NSW Waratahs 23-24 Brumbies

Twinning, Rory congratulates Richie Arnold on his try.

This win sees the Brumbies go five on the trot against the Waratahs in Sydney.

The only criticism I can give this Waratahs team in terms of strategy is their decision to repeatedly kick the ball away in the final ten minutes, but even then I can see what they were trying to do in terms of trusting their defensive abilities to bring them home. In terms of everything else however, this Waratahs side left everything out on the park, and then some. This was the best performance I have had the pleasure of seeing from them in years. The pressure they put the Brumbies under for the majority of the game was excellent, especially at set piece. Frankly, and I’m saying this as a supporter of the Brums, the Tahs were the better team for the majority of the night.

Rugby can be a cruel game, and I for one know personally what it is like to play a game where you outplay the opposition in nearly every way, yet they still find a way to win. To say however that this team choked would be flat out wrong. I, for one, will definitely be coming back to watch them again at some point this season, and if you are a Tahs fan reading this, you should too. This is a team that is going places.

But as much as I can praise the Tah’s efforts, I also have equal praise for how the Brumbies, despite being shut out of the majority of the game, still found a way to snatch victory. This win came from them playing together for the best part of three seasons, and trusting themselves to get the job done, no matter the method. Great teams are the ones that, despite being matched up in a game, still find a way to somehow win. The fact this Brumbies team is doing that speaks so much about how far they’ve come under McKellar, but also how far they can still go.

In the end, this was a game where rugby was the winner. It was a game that reminded us how good rugby can be. As a fan, I cannot ask for more than that!

The Game Changer

The Tahs response after the Brumbies first try. The Brumbies have shown that if they take an early lead, they’ve often run over the top of the Tahs in previous encounters. The Tahs decision to slow the game down and claw their way back was a brilliant move, and gave them a critical edge to make the Brumbies earn their tries.


This is a tough one, as this match was a game of great team performances. For me though, the best on field for the Tahs was a tie between Joey Walton and Rob Simmons, Walton for his impact off Hunt and Simmons for turning the Brumbies lineout into chaos. For the Brums, Andy Muirhead played a brilliant game, looking dangerous on the wing and injecting himself all over the game.

Wallaby Watch

The hooker role has been somewhat weak through much of this competition, but Tom Horton had an excellent debut at hooker with a try for his efforts, while for the Brumbies Irae Simone had to dig deep with Lolesio being forced off, and did extremely well to maintain composure in the Brumbies backline.

The Details

Crowd: ???

NSW Waratahs 23

Tries: Ramm, Horton

Cons: Harrison 2/2

Goals: Harrison 3/4

Cards: N/A

Brumbies 24

Tries: Fines, Valetini, Fainga’a, Cusack

Cons: Lolesio 0/1, Kuenzle 2/3

Goals: N/A

Cards: Muirhead: Yellow 20′

  • Hoss

    I find the Waratahs and a getting a lead similar to a 12yo and their first erection. Unsure of exactly how it happened, feels odd and unnatural and both are quiet unsure about just what to do with it anyway. So, best to ignore it and let it just go away.

    • Greg

      Gosh @HossRugby:disqus …. what did this say *before* you edited it??!!

      Thanks for the write up. I thought this was a good game and would like to see more of a similar standard.

      I joined when the tahs were up by 10 (I think) and was surprised. Heart-breaking to lose it with 3 mins to go.

    • Brisneyland Local

      YEp! They truly didnt know how to finish it off!

  • Graeme

    This is the first game I’ve watched live in the super rugby au. I did so as a Brumbies supporter. Some thoughts:

    * The baby Tahs looked like the better team. Very unlucky. They are very young, but already better than the pre-break Waratahs, and the way they are developing, looking very dangerous. That is good for our Wallabies future.
    * How well coached are the Brumbies? And dangerous. Without their main playmaker for 50 minutes, playing with their third choice scrummie for 30 minutes, getting pummeled in the scrum, making their own line outs look like the opposition was the one throwing in, having their player of the night sin binned for 10 minutes, kicking dreadfully, etc. They somehow managed to score 4 tries to 2.
    * Lolesio had a poor game before his injury. I’ve not seen Will Harrison play before tonight, just heard his hype. But he was definitely up to it, and out played Lolesio while he was on the field. He looked very good.
    * How much depth do the a Brumbies have at scrum half. Powell is no Gregan or Genia. But he is the best starting scrummie of Aussie franchises at the moment, and under-rated. Lonergan was apparently injured, but you have to think he’ll be wearing green and gold sometime in the future. I’ve never heard of Fines, but I thought he had blinder. I hope the negotiations with White are purely with him for box kick coaching. Because I can’t see him even making the pine.
    * The Waratahs no 2 debutant was bloody good.
    * The guy who looks like a drug dealer was my MoM. Even if he only played 70 minutes. And whatever pills he is selling, I wouldn’t mind buying a few for a friend.

    • Twoilms

      McDermott is head and shoulders above Powell imo. Powell has also failed to impress in any of his (admittedly limited) Wallabies appearances.

      • Brisneyland Local

        Agree, I think Tate has his hands on the 9 G&G at the moment. By a slender margin.

        • Brumby Runner

          I will be more than surprised if Nic White doesn’t own that jersey come test time.

        • Brisneyland Local

          He is certinly the front runner! Isnt it great to have multiple choices for positions these days. Rather than knowing the Ass Clown would pick just who he wanted rather than was in form.

      • Rugby Truth

        In about 5 tests, Powell has played a grand total of about 12 minutes.
        Plus, when the Ass Clown has 4 forwards on the wing, Foley at #10 and beale in the side, He’s always going to be up against it.

    • Brumby Runner

      Quite a few comments about Harrison outplaying Lolesio early on. Perhaps we should remember that it was Harrison who spilt the ball over the try line to allow Cusack to score. And it was Harrison who put in two quite ordinary (actually shocking) clearance kicks from inside his 22m and only made it to or a bit short of the 22m line which gave the Brumbies some early territory gains. Also missed more than a tackle later in the game too. Getting better, but not the sort of game that gave the Tahs an attacking edge. 4 tries to 2 does say a lot.

      Fines is a fine young player. Joined the Brumbies Acadamy a few years ago before moving to WA to play with the Force behind Ian Prior. Had quite a bit of game time in GRR as Prior was injured. We haven’t seen the best of him yet.

      White will be the starting No 9 for both the Brumbies and the Wallabies when he returns, which I think is just in a week or two. Joe will probably go offshore. He has not been rewarded at Wallaby level in the past 5 years. He might do a Nic White and bugger off for a year or two and come back into the Wallabies.

      • Howard

        On the subject of 10’s, I was really looking forward to the clash of the young guns, but Harrison had one of his poorer games and Lolesio got injured. On top of the mistakes made by Harrison tgat you pointed out, he needs to improve his game management. He will improve with experince (As will Lolesio) but for mine JOC was the best 10 this week and the favourite for Wallaby selection

        • Mica

          Kuenzle had a really good outing though replacing Lolesio.

      • Hoss

        Agree BR. The Tah’s forward pack were, to a man terrific and did enough to get a win and what should have been a comfortable win. The backs were dreadful and gave away the victory. As an old #8 I hope there will be a square up at training this week when some opposed training might be pencilled in. I though Pat Healey was poor, Maddocks had the spirit of Gilbert inhabiting his person and put in a ‘passion fingers’ performance, Ramm was ok, but the rest, including Hunt – meh. We had enough pill to slow the population in Cessnock, but…

        • UTG

          Walton shuts down a 60 test Wallaby in his first outing at 13 and it’s crap?

          It was only a few games ago the Tahs went down by 33 to the Brumbies. ‘Crap’ and ‘meh’ are the last words I would be using to describe that performance.

          Sure some of the boys made mistakes, Maddocks dropped some ball, Harrison fumbled a ball that led to a try. But they did some great things as well. Maddocks’ kicking game continually got the Tahs out of their own end and he had a brilliant 50/22. Harrison completely redeemed himself for the earlier drop with a fantastic, heads-up cross field kick. We’d never hear the end of it if a rookie Kiwi flyhalf made a similar play.

          The Brumbies actually had 58% possession. If you’d told me at the start of the match the Brumbies would have that much ball and scrape over the line by a point in the last 4 minutes I would have been very happy with that effort.

          Keep it up boys, don’t listen to the negativity.

        • Hoss

          Yep, they had some terrific moments. So exciting play and good awareness – all true. I also pointed out after last weeks game that our backs showed tremendous potential, skill and execution and similarly our forwards were largely ineffective and indirect. Roll forward a week and it was polar opposites. It was the best outing by a a Tah’s pack in years. Direct, purposeful, willing and aggressive. Simmons shone, Hannigans best game in blue ever, Horton for a smallish hooker was terrific, HJH just keeps getting better, Robbo first run back from a spell showed up an all Wallaby opposition, Dempsey added the go forward and link play that’s been missing and Hooper is like a fine red, just keeps getting better with age and playing tighter. However, the backs had a poor night sprinkled amongst one-two fine moments. We aimlessly kicked away victory, a victory that should have been sewn up with 20 to go, not leave it in the hands of the Ponies, who in all honesty had an off nite. I would rather they lose by 30 and be totally outplayed then poison their own drinking water.

          When dining out if I am served a plate of excrement with a nice side garnish, I will still point out to the chef that no matter how good the garnish, the rest was shit.

      • Geoffro

        If anybody had watched a few force games Fines was involved in they’d know what a livewire he is.Not surprised he had a good showing and hope he gets more ops

    • I think we need to remember Maddocks is still a young player. He’s only 23, and he’s going to have bad games occasionally. Many much more senior players will have them too.

      I think it’s to his credit that his entire game didn’t fall apart when facet of his game did, and it will be interesting to see how he does next week – that will be the true test of his character.

  • idiot savant

    Great summary Nick. A wholly domestic competition is making rugby great again. Two absolutely cracking games of skill, physicality, move and counter move. Who needs kiwis? Its a shame that no broadcaster will pay much for Australian rugby because I can’t help but think the way for us to get better is to keep going with a completion like this where Australians play for their tribe and a gold jersey every week.

    Best game I’ve seen from Hanigan possibly ever. His line out spoiling is very good and his workrate high. Harrison is also looking like he will be a class act. (Note to Thorn – pick a talented back and stick with him game after game, just like you do with your forwards and you’ll see results). One of the best games Ive seen from Simmo for a long time. But what an outrageous amount of talent the Tahs have in development. And what a difference Gilmore is making. Their defence keeps them in games and will allow them to play with flair when they have the pill. I am genuinely excited for the future of the game in Australia with the talent that is coming through.

    Thought the bye did the Brums no favours, something in the preparation wasn’t right. I cant believe Gardiner has risen to such heights internationally as a referee when he has no idea at scrum time. But full marks to the Tahs front row, they were on their game last night. I cant believe that the Brums were the only ones offside particularly when the Tahs are playing rush defence. I think the male touchie only had eyes for one side.

    The Brums brought it home with an old fashioned style five eight. Kuenzle looks to me to be in the McLean / Lynagh mould. No jinking just good passing, kicking, and decision making. The kind of 10 I thought Stewart would make (still do). Its going to be interesting how he fares now as it looks like he will get a lot of game time. It will also be an opportunity to develop wunderkind Reesjan Pasitoa. Just loving all the new talent on show. Such a breath of fresh air after the dark times under Monsieur Cheika.

    • Brisneyland Local

      Dont not use his name again. It is either Voldemort, or the Ass Clown please! ;-)

  • RedAnt

    Great write-up, thanks, Nick. Agree with pretty much everything. I am astounded how Penney has been able to mould so many new players into such a cohesive team so quickly. Puts what Thorne/Qld have done into perspective. Still early days of course, but the signs are certainly good. I wonder how players like Hooper find working under Penney, and whether it’s opened their eyes to the limitations of Cheika…

    • Brisneyland Local

      Dont not use his name again. It is either Voldemort, or the Ass Clown please! ;-)

      • RedAnt

        Ha, yes, very remiss of me! Won’t happen again.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Good man!

      • Mortahs Incoming – custardtaht

        That is an insult to Voldemort…..he had a clear and understandable plan. He picked the best wizard in their position, but was just beaten by the better team.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Actually that is a very very good point you have made there.

    • laurence king

      Well, Hooper is certainly playing a better style of game under Penney isn’t he.

  • Crescent

    What a weekend from Super Rugby AU.

    To be honest, the Tahs well and truly overachieved where I felt they were at. So exciting if we can keep a good core of this fresh talent, and they start delivering consistently.

    Conversely, I loved seeing two sides that refused to go away and concede the match. It never felt like the Brumbies were cooked – they just kept on coming despite the frustration they would have been feeling. If anything, the Tahs lacked an old head advising them to use the ball in hand off a line out steal or two – even if it was just for variation and being less predictable. I get the idea of pinning the Brums in their own half, but a big part of me hates giving so much possession away with only a six point lead.

    Enjoyed the competition at the breakdown, both teams attacking the set piece giving a game that went the distance. Well done both sides, and damn you Brumbies, deserved the win for never giving up and forcing the result. Bastards.

  • Greg


    I don’t think it adds to the site with name calling of the previous coach.

    The coach has moved on. The 10 has moved on. The 15 has moved on.

    All the best to them.

    Some of the games have looked pretty positive so far!
    I am looking forward to seeing the teams develop.

  • Mica

    Kuenzle is worth noting. He was really good for the Brums in replacing Lolesio.

  • An arm-wrestle is one way to describe the second half. To me – and I wasn’t at my best I was recovering from a migraine – directionless seems like a better choice. It seemed to me for a huge chunk of the time both attacks (but especially the Brumbies) were entirely predictable, hence easy to defend.

    For how long was every other play throw it to Sio and watch him get tackled behind the advantage line for example? What happened to a first half that produced 37 points to lead to a second half that produced 10? Maybe the Brumbies defence stepped up a gear, but their attack certainly didn’t. I know they lost Lolesio, and there were certainly moves that fell apart because he wasn’t there, but the Tahs didn’t seem much more inspired in the second half.

    Defensive arm-wrestles can be exciting, definitely, but when you can sit there watching the TV and you know what the next play is going to be for minutes at a time, that’s not fun, nor is it smart rugby that will challenge any other country.

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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