The Brumbies took a 28-12 win over the Waratahs tonight in Sydney.
What did we learn from the derby?
1. Backs to their wall, on top of the conference.
It wasn’t their best performance but the Brumbies will finish this weekend on top of the Australian Super Rugby conference after a ninth consecutive win over Australian opposition. It was a timely win after a week in which rumours about the Brumbies’ future in the competition, as SANZAAR’s decision-making process continues, and a Brumbies-Rebels merger occupied a day of the news cycle. When their argument for staying is success, winning is the best evidence and it’s pretty hard to make a case for a team on a run like this one.
2. Close but no thriller
It was a nailbiter in the end, but there was little excitement out of one of the most-anticipated Aussie derbies. A week after the Hurricanes played out a Wellington thriller in torrential rain, neither the Waratahs nor Brumbies could hang on to the ball for long. The Waratahs continued their frustrating form, showing glimpses of the attack they could unleash but unable to finish off the last pass or slip through a gap at exactly the right time. It was a slog and it was close and maybe that’s all you can ask of a derby, but it was no masterclass.
3. Set piece struggles continue
Michael Hooper said it best, interviewed by FOX SPORTS after the match, when asked what they’d need to work on before Friday night’s clash with the Rebels. ‘Set piece’ was his brief answer but one that spoke volumes. The Waratahs had the early upper hand when Scott Fardy was yellow-carded in the eighth minute but that was about the end of any advantage. The Waratahs lost four of their 13 lineouts, to the Brumbies’ two from 10. The Brumbies’ rolling maul led to two tries, another red flag for the Waratahs.
4. Speight is back
Henry Speight is back. The winger has bounced back from an inconsistent 2016 to make a resounding impact in recent weeks, a game winner in Sydney. The 28-year-old’s second-half double was instrumental and a timely reminder of the damage he can inflict. Queensland’s Eto Nabuli has probably been the other form winger of the Australian Super Rugby sides thus far this season, with a potentially intriguing competition for Wallabies’ June Series spots to come.
5. Waratahs off to sluggish start
The Waratahs found themselves 2-4 at the sixth round of last season and four weeks into 2017, the NSW side finds themselves 1-3, in another hole. Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson admitted post-match change needs to come and it needs to come quickly with time running out to close the gap on their Aussie rivals, let alone those from across the ditch.