Brumbies v Sunwolves - Five things we learned

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

The Brumbies got clinical in Japan and wore the Sunwolves down for a bonus point win.

What are we talking about after that one?

BRUMBIES, BRAWN AND BRAINS

As we’ve seen this year, the Brumbies have a number of gears and better still, the smarts to know when to use them.

Visiting Tokyo can be a banana-skin assignment, especially when the expectation is you’ll walk away with a cruisy bonus point.

Some days you will – as the Rebels did a week earlier – and some days you’ll be in an absolute dog-fight, as the Waratahs were early in the season.

The Brumbies earned their bonus point but it was far from cruisy. And they did very well to avoid the dog-fight, too.

The Sunwolves like pace and mania in a game, and scoring inside a minute was a perfect start.

👌🏻Nailed it. #SuperRugby #SUNvBRU

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The Brumbies could have responded by throwing it around with abandon, chasing that bonus point against what can appear to be a porous Sunwolves defence.

They sidestepped that trap, though, and played with patience and discipline.

The scrum emerged as a dominant option, so they scrummed for penalties.

They went for the rolling maul early and were repelled, so had the smarts to take seek space wider; which worked.

The Sunwolves stayed frustratingly in the game with Masiwera’s magic but again the Brumbies didn’t respond with panic.

They scrummed for more penalties, kicked for corners and applied a bit more structure and patience to their rolling maul. And it worked. Three times.

The bonus point arrived late, and it had been earned well.

Chasing it the touch footy way may have worked, sure. But it may have also lost them control of proceedings and lost them the game.

The Brumbies never looked out of control. 

BRUMBIES ONE HAND ON CONFERENCE 

Even if the Rebels had beaten the Waratahs and stayed around level-pegging with the Brumbies, the ACT men held the upper hand for the conference title with games against the Waratahs (away) and Reds (home) to come. The Rebels have the Crusaders (away) and Chiefs (home).

But after the Tokyo job, there are five points between the Brumbies and Rebels now, and it’s nigh-impossible to see the horses getting overtaken.

The Rebels needed to beat NSW and will now have their hands full finishing in the top eight; probably needing a last round win to get in.

The Brumbies have had the wood on the Waratahs in recent times, and they’ve got the game to beat the Reds too.

But in truth they’d probably only need a bonus point in the last two rounds to claim the conference.

They’ll want more, obviously. History shows you need to finish in the top two to be any chance of going deep into Super Rugby finals, and the Brumbies need to finish higher than the African conference winner to have that second rank.

SPIDERS SEMISI

How good is Semisi Masiwera going?

The very best players make good players look like they can’t tackle, and the Sunwolves speedster has been making good players miss all season.

Masiwera was a good finisher at the Force winger but the 26-year-old Fijian seems to have taken his game to a new level in Japan since joining the Sunwolves in 2018.

Against the Brumbies, he shed at least six tackles in scoring his own try and setting up another for Jamie Booth, and looked dangerous on counter all afternoon.

It was the same sort of form he showed against the Waratahs in Newcastle earlier this year, and against the Rebels too.

If there was a Super Rugby fan favourite 23 named at the end of the year, Masiwera would be in it.

And if you were Fiji coach John McKee, you’d be asking for some tapes sent as well, surely?

BENCHES WIN TITLES

It’s a footy cliché and the annoying thing with most of those clichés is they’re said so often because they’re true.

If the Brumbies are going to push on in this competition, they’ll have to rely on the same sort of impact a deep bench they got in Tokyo.

Armed with six forwards on the pine, they not only got value from Connal McInerney but most of their “finishers” too.


The wisdom of recruiting James Slipper in 2019 grows clearer each week, with either he or Scott Sio powering up the scrum in the last 30 minutes.

And how about having the luxury of bringing in Rob Valetini and Locky McCaffrey?

The Brumbies lost a champion in David Pocock this week but perhaps the most impressive thing about their season so far is that he has barely been missed.

BANKS BOOT

Keep the cliché klaxon going, because if a kick is only as good as its chase, then a rolling maul is only as good as its kick.

Or near the line, anyway.

Tom Banks’ pin-point accurate kicks for the corner from penalties were staggeringly precise in Tokyo.

Time and again the fullback put the ball between the five metre line and the corner-post, ensuring a five-metre-line throw.

And there’d be stats somewhere – probably Laurie Fisher’s 1998 dial-up IBM laptop – that’d show how the potency of a rolling maul, percentage-wise, is dramatically enhanced by starting on the five-metre line.

Sometimes kickers runs the risk of alienating an entire team and the coaching box by trying to chew off too much with a kick to the line.

Tom Banks seems to have the blessing of the Brumbies to push as close as possible – and it paid off.