McKellar pleased with Brumbies' defensive grit in shutout win

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

UPDATE: The Brumbies showed some flashy attack in a 33-0 win over the Sunwolves but it was the zero on the other side that pleased coach Dan McKellar as much as anything.

A bonus-point win was all the Brumbies needed to leapfrog the Rebels with five rounds left to go and they delivered in a five-try-to-nil win, their first shutout since 2015.

That victory puts them on 29 competition points, one clear of the Melbourne side and in the box seat for a guaranteed home final.

With a bye next week, the Brumbies have four more matches left to try and hang onto their conference lead, with a return clash against the Sunwolves and clashes against the Bulls and Reds at home and the Waratahs in Sydney in the final month.

The nil scoreline on the opposite side of the scoreboard was as pleasing for coach Dan McKellar as anything, with the Brumbies trailing in territory and possession for much of the night.

"I thought our effort all night was very good and in the last 20 minutes, last 10 in defence there - a lot of teams would be happy to concede there, then it's 33-7 and you still get a good win," he said.Just our desire to hold them out was good to see."

While all the discussion in the past week has surrounded the Brumbies maul, they provided a timely reminder that it is far from the only weapon in their arsenal.

It’s not that the Brumbies were snubbing their set piece, but rather they took other options to score because they presented themselves, walking their talk that they play to their situation.

"I think that's what we need to understand is that the maul forces the defence to commit numbers which creates space and opportunities elsewhere," he said.

"There's a lot more to it than eight forwards trying to drive it over."

Winger Henry Speight had two tries before half-time, as many as he’s had all year to this point, while the rest of the attack was firing as well as they have all year.

Their scrum was monstrous against a usually intimidating Sunwolves outfit, easing any pressure the Japanese outfit was able to build.

McKellar, who has arguably the most talent-laden front row department in Super Rugby, said he could not be happier with the way the side's scrum was working.

"I think our scrum's the dominant scrum in the comp at the moment and we're getting reward off the back of that and that puts the opposition under pressure, forces them to focus on scrummaging and that allows our backs to be one on one with the opp backline," he said.

Henry Speight had a first-half double. Photo: WalmsleyGerhard van den Heever looked to have scored first for the Sunwolves but Brumbies scrumhalf Joe Powell had forced him into touch, a sign of the intent the hosts were keen to show.

Speight showed some vintage speed in a ruthless counter-attack from the Brumbies in the 14th minute.

Speight slipped through a gap deep in defence and a quick one-two with Tevita Kuridrani put him back in open space and over the line.

Powell cruised in for the Brumbies’ second less than two minutes later with a Tom Banks turnover opening up an opportunity for Kuridrani to break through the line and put his halfback over.

Speight had a second as the Sunwolves’ gritty maul defence forced the Brumbies to look wide and a long-range Christian Lealiifano pass made it to the winger and he put it down just in time.

Things began in the second half just as they had ended for the Brumbies, with complete dominance against an increasingly worn-down Sunwolves outfit.

Blindside flanker Tom Cusack had a chance to score in the 49th minute but a desperate tackle attempt from Dan Pryor forced a knock-on.

Speight nearly had his third of the night but opted to pop an outside pass to fullback Tom Banks off a first-phase play, to give their home fans something to really smile about.

They weren't done with their flashy tries, despite having a 26-0 advantage, with Pete Samu joining the party to finish off a score generated from a Kuridrani turnover.

Kuridrani starred in his return from a knee niggle, with a hand in the first two tries and six carries for 75 metres by the end of the game.

On top of his impressive try, Banks was effective in defence as well with two near try-saving tackles as the Brumbies worked to maintain their ascendancy on the game.

The Sunwolves let a scoring chance go begging in the 74th minute after a missed tackle opened up the field for the visitors but a misjudged grubber let the Brumbies shepherd it out of danger.

They went agonisingly close to scoring again in three minutes later but a knock-on over the line prevented that.

The Japanese side will be sweating on some injuries as well, with their bench undermanned with lock Grant Hattingh and fullback Ryohei Yamanaka exiting the game early.


Brumbies 33

Tries: Speight 2, Powell, Banks, Samu

Cons: Lealiifano 4

Sunwolves 0