Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Waratahs to chase first title on home soil

Jarrad Butler of the Brumbies is tackled during the Super Rugby semi final against the Waratahs. Photo / Getty Images
Jarrad Butler of the Brumbies is tackled during the Super Rugby semi final against the Waratahs. Photo / Getty Images

Waratahs 26
Brumbies 8

It's off to Sydney then - which will host it's host final after the Waratahs clawed and scrapped their way into the last two.

They did it the hard way. The brave way. They didn't have much ball. They didn't play much in Brumbies territory, but they made two lightning strikes, kicked their goals and defended supremely well.

Incredibly well in fact. They had no business winning, really. And yet they did. Their scrum was under pressure. Their lineout was easy pickings and the Brumbies spent the second half camped in the Waratahs 22.

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They pounded and pounded but that blue line wouldn't give. It barely buckled. The linespeed was excellent. The technique spot on, the passion obvious and their work rate relentless.

What made it for them was their ability to be under so much pressure and yet stay so alive to opportunity.

Their first try came from a promising Brumbies move that broke down.

Their second try came from an opportunistic steal by Kurtley Beale and their third was a fantastic length of the field breakout from deep inside their own half.

For long periods they looked like they were clinging on. That they were going to be denied their grand final. It was only a matter of time surely before the Brumbies would breach the blue wall and once they got in front, they'd never look back.

Not so. The Waratahs soaked it all up and in the final 10 minutes they were still running hard. They looked fit. They looked capable and the Crusaders should be warned that of they are going to win their eighth title, they are going to have to be prepared for 80 minutes to get it.

They are also going to have to be prepared to slug it out as the Waratahs showed they have a bit of grit. That they can stand up for themselves.

There was plenty of niggle. Most of the forwards had words for each other; were happy to linger in the hope a little bit of slap and sledge would erupt. The backs were a little manlier in their exchanges, preferring to demonstrate their commitment to the occasion with the occasional thunderous tackle.

The more venomous it got, the more the Crusaders would have been sitting back in Christchurch feeling better about life. The surface in Sydney was heavy and draining on the legs. Obviously the Crusaders would have been rooting for the Brumbies so the final could be played in Christchurch, but regardless, they would have been delighted just to have seen both teams forced to dig so deep. They would have been delighted just to see both of them put so much in - especially on a heavy surface that would have been inflicting an enduring fatigue.

And it was about time there was an intense Australian derby. The New Zealand sides have been smashing seven bells out of each other all year - looking jealously across the Tasman at the often dubious nature of what they were seeing.

There was nothing suspect about this one, though. Even the scrummaging was a contest. A proper contest with the Brumbies mostly winning the battle but crucially not on the occasions when they really needed to.

Waratahs 26 (A. Alofa, K. Beale, B. Foley tries; B. Foley 3 pens, con)
Brumbies 8 (H. Speight tries; C. Leali'ifano pen)

- Herald on Sunday

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