Super Rugby report card: ACT Brumbies

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Brumbies went into this season as underdogs.

The Reds had what appeared to be a brilliant off season and the Waratahs still had a roster resembling the team that powered to a title in 2014.

They were the Australian Conference favourites, with the Brumbies thought to be in the chasing pack alongside the Force and Rebels.

That was largely due to the exodus of experience from the 2016 list to the one that Stephen Larkham had at his disposal come round one 2017.

Six months later they were Australian Conference champs, having won that crown through success at conference level.

So, how did they do it?

HIGH POINT

The win in Argentina was huge for the Brumbies. Photo: Getty ImagesThe round seven clash against the Reds was built as a season defining match and it separated the contender from the pretender.

The second half was a demolition job but unfortunately, that level of play was rarely seen again from the Australian Conference champs.

While that was a noteworthy win, it paled in comparison to the 39-15 win in Argentina which sealed the conference title.

That was their best performance of the season and the two wins on the other side of the world proved critical to a finals berth, given the Force's form late in the season.

But Christian Lealiifano's return on Saturday tops any on field performance.

That's the high point of this season.

An inspirational return from an inspirational individual.

LOW POINT

Losing to the Hurricanes after leading them at the break for the second time this season can't be too far from the top of the list but it doesn't beat the 19-17 loss to the Rebels.

That was the only game Melbourne would win all season and it was the worst 80 minute performance the Brumbies put together in 2017.

Larkham's teams pride themselves on their derby play and they typically get the results in those matches because they play smarter, more efficient rugby than the other teams in the conference.

But there was none of that on display in round eight, where they came crashing back to earth after flogging the Reds seven days earlier.

MVP

Allan Alaalatoa has been a regular force for the Brumbies in 2017. Photo: Getty ImagesAllan Alaalatoa has taken his game to a new level in 2017.

He started all three June Tests and is growing as a player with every match.

At 23, he is quickly becoming an elite scrummager and increasing his impact with every touch as well.

Rory Arnold, Joe Powell and Tevita Kuridrani have been similarly consistent but it's Alaalatoa that has set the platform each and every week.

SURPRISE PACKET

Tom Banks has added spark to the Brumbies back three. Photo: Getty ImagesLarkham had big wraps on Wharenui Hawera preseason and he has grown into a quality flyhalf as the season has worn on.

Powell has taken to the starting halfback role with poise, guiding the team in Tomas Cubelli's absence.

But Tom Banks is the player that has seen his stocks soar in 2017.

He was handed his first start of the season against the Reds - the club that gave him his Super Rugby debut - and hasn't looked back.

His superb performance against the Jaguares was definitely a sign of things to come, as he has been a fixture in the starting XV ever since.

He has a burst of speed that can't be taught, a knack for finding holes in counter attack and an astute kicking game.

Definitely one to watch in 2018.

UNDERACHIEVER

Kyle Godwin's move to Canberra was touted as a huge coup for the club but he hasn't exactly set the rugby world alight this season.

Many fans questioned his selection in Michael Cheika's June Wallabies squad, with Billy Meakes left out despite being in far better form.

He has had some injury setbacks and that is what kept him out of the quarter final loss but he hasn't had the season he would have liked.

WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IN 2018

Bigger and better things await this Brumbies group. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyMuch like the Force, not a great deal needs to change in Canberra.

The loss of Larkham to full time commitments with the Wallabies will hurt.

Dan McKellar has big shoes to fill in that regard but there is a promising young core building here.

Alaalatoa, Powell, Hawera and Banks look long term starters and they're all under the age of 24.

Sam Carter and Rory Arnold are a formidable second row at this level and the same could be said for Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani.

That's a spine that will be around for the foreseeable future and if they're healthy, expect the Brumbies to contend for the conference title once again in 2018.

Final grade: B+

Join the discussion