Brumbies 23 Waratahs 6
The Brumbies have a stubbornness, a tenacity about them.
Overshadowed by the Waratahs for much of this game, they consolidated their position at the top of the Australian conference with a never-say-die win in Canberra last night.
About as exciting as a stagnant puddle earlier in the season, the Waratahs changed their game plan, previously reliant on kicking for position, suffocating defence, kicking the penalties and counter-attacks. It was boring, but usually efficient.
For this game, they lifted the pace and intensity of their attack, directed by Berrick Barnes at first five-eighths. The Wallaby's smart distribution and decision-making made early room for runners like centre-winger Tom Kingston, No 8 Wycliff Palu and cannonball hooker Tatafu Polata-Nau (who looks like an enraged Smurf with his beard and woolly hair-do when on the burst but who is so often injured as he flings his body around).
The Waratahs made their attacking intentions known early with several incursions but all too often their composure - and the scoring pass - eluded them. The Brumbies have firm defence, smart kicking by halfback Nic White and good attacking from the likes of first-five Christian Lealiifano, winger Joseph Tomane and centre Andrew Smith. Up front, they are competitive in the breakdowns and in driving over the advantage line - with captain and flanker Ben Mowen prominent in both.
They put together their best sustained attack after the siren had sounded for halftime - driving rushes allied with good passing and continuity until winger Henry Speight, with no room to move close to the sideline, slipped a tackle by Barnes and cleverly skipped past his marker, Peter Betham, and fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper.
The Waratahs had had most of the game but ended up 13-6 down at halftime and were 20-6 behind after a try to Smith following a multi-phase assault. They came again but a dropped pass by Barnes when hot on attack negated much of his good work and effectively ended the contest 20 minutes out; after a penalty by Lealiifano.
Last night's win increases the Brumbies' lead in the Australian conference though they are in for two tough games against the Hurricanes and the Reds after they return from next week's bye.
They must then play the Waratahs again in the second-to-last round.
Brumbies 23 (H. Speight, A. Smith tries; C. Leafiilano 2 cons, 3 pens), Waratahs 6 (B. McKibbin 2 pens). Halftime: 13-6.