McKellar urges fans to get behind Brumbies after bonus-point win

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

UPDATE: Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has urged the Canberra community to get behind the Brumbies after another low crowd turned out for their 22-10 bonus-point win against the Bulls on Friday night.

Just 6,311 turned out to watch the Brumbies defeat the Bulls on Friday night in a victory that has put them in the box seat for a home quarter-final.

While that figure alone is not a record low, with just one more regular season home game this year, it could contribute to the side's lowest season-average crowd in Super Rugby history.

The Brumbies have found their feet on the field this season  - Friday night's match was the Brumbies' sixth home win in a row and the fifth from their past six matches. but McKellar admitted his disappointment at the small crowds.

"It's disappointing at the moment," he said.

"We want to play in front of bigger crowds - we feel like we're putting on a performance that the community can resonate with and connect with and get behind.

"(I just want to) encourage people to get back out here and get behind the Brumbies.

"If we don't, things will be dire and that's the reality. We've got to get support for this team. At the moment, we're probably a little bit off there."

Tevita Kuridrani scored a hat-trick against the Bulls. Photo: Getty ImagesMckellar said they hoped for a big crowd in their final regular season home game against the Reds on June 15.

"We've got the Reds last fixture at home here - I don't want to talk about finals or anything like that," he said.

"We'll just worry about next week but hopefully we get a good crowd for the Queensland game.

"There'll be a lot of quality footballers running around in both teams and let's get closer to 12,13,14,000 people to start with and then we'll push on from there."

Coming into the weekend with a one-point lead over the Rebels in the Australian conference, the victory gives the Brumbies a six-point advantage that can’t be negated even if the Rebels decimate the Sunwolves on Saturday afternoon.

With their own trip to Tokyo and then Sydney to come, plus a final home game against the Reds, the Canberra side are in the box seat to finish with a guaranteed home quarter-final for their efforts this season.

It was a critical win for the ACT side in terms of competition points but it was also a revealing one.

The Brumbies scrum was dominated for much of the night and they were unable to find much pay from a traditional rolling maul, forcing the home side to look somewhere else for points.

Though they have shown versatility at times this season, Friday night was the toughest forward test they have faced and the Brumbies stepped up.

Powerful centre Kuridrani had a double by half-time to give the Brumbies the lead at the break, and by the 60th minute he had notched his first Super Rugby hat-trick.

Kuridrani had his first full preseason since 2014 ahead of this season, after injury ended his 2018, and McKellar said the centre had taken a step up this season off the back of that.

"I think he's seeing a lot more footy, getting a lot more opportunity, his confidence is high at the moment," he said.

"Preseason, all of that, that's certainly all played a role...He's benefitting off the good work inside of him. Christian (Lealiifano), Irae (Simone) are giving him good ball. 

"The forwards are fronting up at set piece, delivering good ball and he's taking his opportunities.

"It's the little things as well...he's added a lot of good skills to his game."

While the ACT’s forwards didn’t outmuscle their opponents, the likes of Folau Fainga’a, Rory Arnold and Scott Sio showed their skills in a match where ball movement by hand was the Brumbies' objective.

The Brumbies used their maul as a platform to create ball movement rather than roll over and while they weren’t taking undue risks, they looked to space when it opened up.

Where the hosts looked cohesive and connected, the Bulls certainly

The Bulls had the first chance at the sticks in the second minute with Mannie Libbok slotting the three-pointer.

Brumbies flanker Tom Cusack opened the field up for the Brumbies with a powerful run down the middle and off the next phase, the ACT backline was able to send it quickly wide for Tevita Kuridrani to finish.

Cusack paid the price for a series of team infringements in the 15th minute, leaving the Brumbies under pressure deep in defence but Rory Arnold stole an important lineout.

The seven-man pack could only hold out the Bulls for so long, though, and Hanro Liebenberg was the scorer in a pushover try.

It was a battle of the forwards for much of the first half and the Brumbies couldn’t find the reward from their set piece that they have this season.

The Bulls’ maul defence stopped the Brumbies in their tracks and in open play the South African pack was able to keep the hosts out as well.

It took until the 38th minute until the Brumbies found some pay off a lineout, with Folau Fainga’a starting a rapid chain of passes opening up a gap for Kuridrani to score a double.

A seamless attacking play from the Brumbies gave Simone their third try of the night.

Joe Powell sent a rocket into Christian Lealiifano’s hands and the flyhalf threw an inside pass into Henry Speight, who offloaded to Simone to complete the chain.

It wasn’t just the attacking momentum going the way of the Brumbies with the front row securing a pivotal scrum penalty in the 54th minute as well, thanks to some strength from Sio.

Backrower Pete Samu made his impact felt in the final stages, with a critical turnover as the home side's confidence continued to grow.

Lock Sam Carter said the Brumbies shared the load well in the clash.

"The Bulls are a very good side, physical up front so we knew that was going to be the case and the forwards did a really good job fronting up in that department and opened up to the backs and they were outstanding tonight," he said.

"The balance has been really good - sometimes we have to win it with the maul, sometimes we have to win it with the backs. So, as long as we win it, I don't really mind."

The Bulls will head to New Zealand without Pollard and acting captain Duane Vermeulen, who was taken off early with injury but is also scheduled for a pre-World Cup rest in the next fortnight.

The Brumbies travel to Tokyo next week to take on the Sunwolves.


Brumbies 22

Tries: Kuridrani 3, Simone

Cons: Lealiifano

Yellow Cards: Cusack (15’)

Bulls 10

Tries: Liebenberg

Cons: Libbok

Pens: Libbok