Brumbies run past the Chiefs

The Brumbies got off to the perfect start when they recorded a hard-earned 21-15 win over the Chiefs in their Super 14 Round One match at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday.

The Chiefs had a start to their season they will want to forget. They conceded six penalties, ten points, and one captain to a yellow card in the first quarter of an hour alone. Kicks didn’t go to touch, scrums didn’t stay stable, and possession was lost on line-out drives.

The defensive line was up too quickly and too crooked; Julian Huxley, Gene Fairbanks and Stirling Mortlock had a field day during those first fifteen minutes, and it would have been 13-0 in that time had Mortlock not missed a shot at goal. 13-0 would have been a fair reflection.

The Brumbies, for their part, started solidly, finished doggedly, and simply accepted the gifts gifted in between. Once the home team did find their stride – oddly, immediately after they were down to 14 men – the Brumbies were content to sit on their lead and keep the ball away from their own half in the first half, and then patiently probe for possibilities in the second.

The pack held together well, and there was plenty of enterprise from fly-half Huxley in particular, who revealed a penchant for slipping languidly through gaps that bore the stamp of ‘Larkham apprentice factory’ all over it. When he couldn’t find a gap, he proved adept at meeting the runs from deep of Mortlock, Fairbanks and Mark Chisholm, all of whom broke the gain-line with impunity.

Mortlock opened the scoring after just five minutes, bursting outside Niva Ta’auso who had come up too far, and then swerving inside Dwayne Sweeney. Preceding that, the Chiefs had thrown away 50m within one minute by first losing a line-out, then slicing a kick to touch on the full, then failing to find touch with a free-kick.

Clyde Rathbone had already thrown away a scoring chance by opting to chip and chase too quickly, with the Chiefs’ back-line once again up raggedly and the ball finding its way quickly wide.

Mortlock extended the lead with a penalty awarded for Marty Holah breaking the 15m line before a ball had been thrown in at the line-out – an epitome of the Chiefs’ lack of attention to fine details at the start.

Jono Gibbes was yellow-carded for a nasty high tackle after a quarter of an hour, but it turned out to be an almost beneficial move.

Steven Bates assumed the captaincy, rollocked his team audibly and animatedly, Mortlock missed the penalty, and seven minutes later the Chiefs were on the scoreboard with an excellent try, with Bates and Tom Willis doing the spadework, and the ball finding its way out to Sosene Anesi’s fizzing feet in the corner. Donald missed the conversion, adding to a penalty he had missed earlier in the game, but the Chiefs were back on their game.

With the game at 10-5, George Smith was sent to the bin for repeated ‘hands in the ruck’ infringements, but it was a harsh call. Much of the time, referee Lawrence seemed content to let the man on the ground hold on a little too long for the truffle-hounding flankers to be able to dig up a hard-earned prize, yet clamped down a little too quickly on the flankers themselves.

Marty Holah followed Smith shortly afterwards for a similar offence, but it was another harsh call – he hadn’t been whistled for ruck interference for over half an hour. Contest at the ruck was thereafter muted, and with support slow to arrive from both teams, the game dawdled a bit through to half-time.

Rathbone opened the second half with a try, after Huxley and Fairbanks had once again combined to get into the Chiefs’ 22 before stretching the defence with two super wide passes out to the left.

Two minutes later Huxley landed a huge penalty from 52m – his boot throughout distinguished itself just as much as his hands – and with George Gregan dictating play imperiously from the base of

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