The Brumbies lost another nailbiter on Saturday night, going down to the Highlanders.
Here's what we learned.
1. The drought continues
It’s been 393 days since the Brumbies last beat a New Zealand team, that infamous thrashing of 2016’s eventual champions the Hurricanes. That drought looked like ending on Saturday night, until the 73rd minute against the Highlanders when the Kiwis found something extra again and added more days to a number of barren stretches. The Waratahs are the last of any of the Australian teams to have tasted victory against a New Zealand team, in a 45-25 win over the Chiefs last May, with no Aussie sides getting up from five attempts in the first five rounds. The Reds remain the only team to have beaten an overseas side, after their Round One defeat of the Sharks.
2. Brumbies fight kicking with kicking
The Highlanders love to kick and the Brumbies fought fire with fire in the early stages of Saturday night’s clash and ended up with more kicks in play than their opponents by fulltime. There were the usual suspects putting it on the boot but also some cameos from around the park, with Scott Fardy sending a few downfield early in the piece.
3. Canberra picks up the phone
The Brumbies asked their fans to turn up this week, amid the ongoing speculation over their future, and they did that somewhat. Saturday night’s match with the Highlanders drew 11,195, their biggest Canberra crowd of 2017. Their match against the Sharks drew 8,738 and their win over the Force two weeks ago had an 8,647 crowd. This wasn’t exactly an emphatic statement from the Canberrans, with no competition for the Brumbies on a weekend where the Raiders played in Brisbane, but the biggest crowd of the season is certainly a tick.
4. More tricks up Bernie’s sleeve
We’ve seen a winger throw a lineout in Round One and on Saturday night, another one of the Brumbies’ set piece illusions resulted in a try. Flanker Chris Alcock grabbed their first five-pointer 27 minutes in, off a lineout. Alcock collected the ball as the jumper landed, looked up and as almost everyone else split to the openside, the No.7 slipped to the blindside, eluding the Highlanders defence to dot down. There’s more than a rolling maul to this Brumbies team.
5. Rugby goes for 80 minutes, so play for 80 minutes
The Brumbies had their chances against the Highlanders but for the third time this season they were undone by an opposition storming home and some uncharacteristic late errors. The Crusaders ran them down in Round One, the Sharks inflicted a heartbreaker on them in the 82nd minute a week later and the Highlanders capitalised on a chance in the 73rd minute to steal a late victory. Those three losses came at a combined margin of just 14 points but effectively cost the Brumbies 12 competition points that they would probably be keen to have when the finals are decided.