Brumbies end Crusaders’ run

The Brumbies stayed in the hunt for a place in the 2007 Super 14 play-offs when they grinded out a 15-6 win over the table-topping Crusaders in Canberra on Saturday.

It was a game of no tries, but ended a six-match victory march by the Crusaders.

It was also the perfect send-off for George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Jeremy Paul – who had played their last game at the Brumbies’ home ground, Canberra Stadium, before moving on at the end of the year.

There are several kinds of rugby worth watching. There are the try fests with silky skills on display, the ones when the lead seesaws, the intensity of a final – that sort of thing.

 

A try fest this was not, nor did the scoring seesaw for the Crusaders led for only three minutes in the game and from 8 minutes on not at all. But it had the intensity of a final.

Two things fuelled the intensity of the Brumbies at least. There was the desperation to continue their recent run of victories which gives them a chance to make semi-finals. Lose this one and they kiss a semi goodbye.

 

And then there was the retirement from Brumby rugby of the Big Three, the Brumby originals – George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Jeremy Paul. And there in lights with fireworks to attract attention there was the stand proclaimed The Gregan-Larkham Stand.

The Crusaders do not need fuel for their intensity. They play with intensity any way and yet there was something a little surprising in this defeat. One always thought of them as a Team for All Seasons, but on this cold, wet night up in Canberra they did not look that at all.

 

They were not as suave as they usually are – and they did not score a try for the second time in the 2007 Super 14. The first time was up at Ellis Park but that was in pre-reconditioned All Black days. Of course they are still sitting pretty but not quite as pretty as they would like to be as they could, after Week 14, be toppled from the top of the table and forfeit a lucrative home final. Before the match Deans warned that wheels could come off, as has happened to the Blues of late.

So the Brumbies won the emotion and the match. The emotion was channelled emotion. It drove them into the tackle/ruck, it forced the desperation tackle when the likes of Aaron Mauger and Casey Laulala slipped through clever gaps, it got them shoving in the scrum and forcing errors from the Crusaders front five in scrums, line-outs and around about, it set them racing after kicks – they were an intense side all right, their intensity focussed on the ball. For it was not a silly match, all the emotion notwithstanding.

The match started with the Crusaders trying to play wide. Then it became a kicking duel, a game of gaining ground which the Crusaders seemed to be winning. Laulala got the first break as he powered past Gene Fairbanks. The Crusaders were on top in this physical battle and took the lead when Daniel Carter goaled for an early tackle. That was on five minutes.

Three minutes later the scores were level. Carter fumbled but passed and Fairbanks intercepted. He was tackled and then Kevin Senio was penalised for being a lazy runner at the ensuing ruck. Stirling Mortlock goaled.

There were a few promising runs which were stopped by brave defence – one by Leon MacDonald, another by Laulala, and one by Stephen Hoiles for the Brumbies.

The Brumbies then missed two kicks at goal, but they goaled the next one after Richie McCaw had been sent to the sin bin when he was adjudged to have knocked on deliberately, a decision which may have been dubious. But in this half the Crusaders were conceding penalties – six to the two of the Brumbies. 6-3 to the Brumbies after 29 minutes.

Mose Tuiali’i went on the burst from a disrupted scrum and Michel Paterson was there to carry it on but it was smothered by the defence when support did not a

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