McKellar praises "unbelievable" forward pack after gritty Blues win

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman in Japan

UPDATE: Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has prraised his "unbelievable" forwards after a Folau Faingaa hat-trick helped the Brumbies to a pivotal 26-21 win over the Blues.

Trailing 12-0 after just 10 minutes, the Brumbies used their forwards to mount both set piece pressure and score points, with all four tries notched by their front row.

Hooker Folau Faingaa nabbed a hat-trick off the Brumbies’ near unstoppable rolling maul, becoming Super Rugby’s outright try-scoring leader with 10 tries this season, while James Slipper crashed over for the opener as well.

It wasn't just at the line where their forwards stood up - they forced the Blues into penalties at scrum time and ground their opponents down in defence.

Their backrow trio of Pete Samu, Tom Cusack and Jahrome Brown put their bodies on the line and set the tone for the rest of the team after that slow start.

The win puts the Brumbies level with the conference-leading Rebels in competition points and right in contention for an automatic home final spot.

McKellar was effusive in his praise of the Brumbies pack and the textbook execution of their rolling maul that caused the Blues all sorts of headaches.

"It wasn't pretty, didn't need to be, they're just a really brave group and we've got a lot of confidence out of our defence the last few weeks," he said.

"We had a plan tonight around set piece and maul and I thought our forwards were unbelievable. Just executed it to perfection."

Brumbies captain Christian Lealiifano had no hesitation in going to the corner wherever possible and echoed McKellar's views.

"I thought the whole forward pack was immense just in executing their role, like each player had a role to do at scrum time and maul time and they just executed it well under pressure too and they were consistent," he said.

James Slipper celebrates his try against the Blues. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile there is still a bit of water to flow under the bridge, all but one of the Brumbies’ remaining games are against their conference rivals, giving them a chance to deny others points as much as build their tally in the final six weeks.

TJ Faiane had the Blues’ first try in the eighth minute in what appeared an auspicious start and Speedster Caleb Clarke had their second score less than two minutes later and the Brumbies suddenly found themselves in a 12-point hole.

A yellow card to Alex Hodgman for an off-the-ball hit gave the Brumbies a one-man advantage and they went straight to their trademark maul to convert that into a try for Faingaa.

It was through their pack that they managed to eke out an advantage and also through their pack that they managed to keep their tally ticking over as well.

Prop Slipper added to the front rowers’ scorecard, crashing over just shy of half-time to narrow the margin to just three points.

That was where it stayed until the break, though the Brumbies went just metres shy of scoring another five-pointer just before the break.

Things generated into an arm wrestle early in the second half but it was the Brumbies piling on the pressure.

That pressure paid off with another card and the Brumbies again used that opportunity to score with a driving maul.

An infringement from replacement Brumbies lock Darcy Swain gave the Blues the chance to boot three points and snatch back the lead.

Three minutes later, Faingaa powered over once more to notch his hat-trick and give the Brumbies a huge dose of confidence.

The Blues have finished strongly this season but the Brumbies’ growing momentum and fearlessness keeping their opponents at bay.

The Brumbies were dealt a blow in the 19th minute with in-form lock Rory Arnold limping off after an awkward tackle but McKellar said post-match he was unsure of the severity of that.

The Brumbies host the Sunwolves in Canberra in eight days' time, giving them plenty of time to nurse some of their wounded back to full fitness.


Brumbies 26

Tries: Faingaa 2, Slipper

Cons: Lealiifano 

Blues 21

Tries: Faiane, Clarke

Pens: Plummer

Yellow card: Hodgman, Tuungafasi