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Brumbies beat Waratahs in monsoonal conditions as injury toll goes from bad to worse

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11th May, 2024
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They were made to roll up their sleeves, but the ACT Brumbies have kept their top two hopes alive by holding on to beat the NSW Waratahs 29-21 in Sydney.

In monsoonal-like conditions, where the heavens opened in the second half and Allianz Stadium finished looking like a lake, it took until replacement prop Sefo Kautai to cross the line in the 77th minute for Stephen Larkham’s men to seal the deal.

Before then the Waratahs produced a spirited second-half comeback as Joey Walton and Tane Edmed scored converted tries to cut the margin to a single point with six minutes remaining.

But the Brumbies managed to pin the Waratahs in their half after the kick restart and then clawed their way to the line.

It proved to be a match-winning surge from Kautai, with the Brumbies holding on to keep hold of the Dan Vickerman Cup and extend their winning streak over the Waratahs to 13 matches.

Relieved?

“Yep, definitely,” Larkham said.

“It was a physical game in that first half. Both teams struggled to get past the gain-line. We created a few opportunities in then first-half, but it was definitely physical for the first half.

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“The second half didn’t change, the weather did and we had to battle through conditions as well as a really good opposition tonight, but we defended exceptionally well.”

Jack Debreczeni runs the ball against the NSW Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on May 11, 2024 in Sydney. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

For the Waratahs, Darren Coleman’s men suffered more agony.

Harry Johnson-Holmes – the seventh and final contracted prop previously left standing – suffered a suspected ruptured Achilles injury, which will see him miss the rest of the year.

It means the Waratahs will be without their 11 front-rowers, including their four first-choice hookers, for the rest of the Super Rugby season.

“It wasn’t a good two days,” Coleman said.

Recently re-signed flanker Charlie Gamble could also miss some time after sustaining a huge gash, which requires surgery.

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Despite the win, the Brumbies were miles from their best.

A more clinical side would have put them away, with the Waratahs making nine clean breaks to one as they beat 26 defenders to 10.

The issue for the Waratahs was their handling let them down, with the home side guilty of making 19 turnovers to nine.

Then, of course, the Waratahs once again botched another free kick as captain Jake Gordon followed the lead of Miles Amatosero last month by failing to kick the ball forward from a quick tap and was subsequently blown up.

“I think if we summarise it, they just seemed to score their points easier than we did,” Coleman said.

“We had long periods in their 22 and linebreaks, but we just don’t seem to have the accuracy to finish off the energy and intent we’re showing.

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“You can’t undersell the cohesion of the front-row and the flow-on effects it has there.”

The blunders undid plenty of the strong work done up front, particularly from Amatosero, who enjoyed his best match since arriving from Clermont, while Lachie Swinton led the Waratahs’ physicality and Jed Holloway was also busy on both sides of the ball and ran a good lineout given the extraordinary injury toll up front the side is currently experiencing.

“Nothing but respect for Lewis Ponini and Jay Fonokalafi,” Coleman added. “Three weeks ago those guys were on job sites.

“[Replacement props] George [Thornton] we called in on Thursday and [hooker] Ben [Sugars] met his teammates for the first time this week. I’ve got respect for those blokes.

“I thought there were some good whole hearted individual performances pushed through the team.

“I thought Miles Amatosero played tough and physical, Jed on his 100th [Super Rugby match] did some nice things with ball-in-hand and calling the lineout, Charlie was bloody brave to come back on. His leg gash is horrendous. He’s off for surgery now.

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“I though Lalakai [Foketi] got back to some good form. I thought he was really physical and ran hard and tackled hard.”

But it wasn’t enough as the Waratahs were made to pay for a slow start to the second half as Rob Valetini and Len Ikitau scored twice inside the opening 10 minutes to blow open the match.

In a match where the Brumbies made the most of their opportunities, their experienced backline shone.

Tamati Tua continued to bend the line at inside centre while Ikitau showed his quality on both sides of the ball.

Playmaker Jack Debreczeni, who was filling the boots of Noah Lolesio (concussion), also led the Brumbies well around the field with his long boot and experience showing.

The Brumbies lost Charlie Cale, who scored the opening try in the 10th minute, late in then first half to a lower leg injury.

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It’s likely the rising back-rower will be the only unavailable Brumbies player unavailable for selection ahead of next Saturday’s home clash against the Crusaders, with James Slipper, Billy Pollard, Lolesio and Corey Toole expected to be fit.

Harry Johnson-Holmes left the field early after a suspected Achilles injury during the Waratahs’ eight-point loss to the ACT Brumbies at Allianz Stadium on May 11, 2024 in Sydney. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The win saw the Brumbies climb back above the Chiefs into third spot on 39 points, where they trail with the Hurricanes (43) and Blues (45) with three rounds remaining.

The Waratahs meanwhile were denied a losing bonus point by Debreczeni’s late conversion, which means they are stuck on 12 points – five points outside of the top eight.

Despite that, Coleman said he was holding onto hope that his side could conjure up something special over the rest of the month to somehow sneak into the finals.

“Ridiculously we’re still in the hunt for the playoffs,” he said.

“We’ll do what we’ve done most of this season. We’ll hurt tonight, we’ll review and we’ll go over to the Force and have good energy and intent and do our jersey proud, and try and finish on a positive with a few wins to get us home.”

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