The Brumbies banished their breakdown woes and threw the Super 14 finals race wide open with a drought-breaking 16-11 victory over the Blues in Auckland.
Their first away win over the Blues since 2001 kept the Brumbies finals prospects alive and enhanced those of the other Australian contenders.
Foxsports reports that a focus during the week on improving their work at the breakdown and attacking the Blues lineout paid handsome dividends for the visitors.
The Brumbies disrupted the Blues lineout and also reigned at the breakdown where they displayed better control than in their heavy losses to the Chiefs and Hurricanes.
While their scrum struggled, the Brumbies backline turned in an assured performance with winger Adam Ashley-Cooper in sparkling form.
The Canberra based side withstood heavy pressure in the first 10 minutes, but dominated much of the remainder of the match.
The slumping Blues, who entered the round in third place, committed numerous errors and were frequently turned around by the shrewd kicking game of Brumbies fullback Mark Gerrard.
Each team scored just one try, with the Brumbies crossing on the half hour after they opted not to take a shot at goal following the reversal of a penalty initially awarded to the Blues.
An indiscretion by Blues skipper Troy Flavell prompted referee Jonathan Kaplan who gave the Brumbies the penalty from which five-eighth Christian Lealiifano crossed.
The Brumbies retained control in the second half, kicking two penalties to one to lead 16-6 until Blues winger Rudi Wulf scored a well constructed and executed try five minutes from the end.
Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher applauded his team’s effort.
“Sticking to a game plan and showing some genuine commitment and character, that’s what wins games more than the fancy stuff and that was important tonight,” Fisher said.
“I certainly rate a win at Eden Park very highly.”
Fisher was also delighted with the display of Ashley-Cooper, while Gerrard gave a vote of thanks to the entire Brumbies pack.
“I thought they did a tremendous job, if I had to give three points (for a player of the match) I’d give three points from our No.1 to No.8, because without their platform and the set up for the backline, I don’t think we would have been in a position to win that game.”
Brumbies skipper Stirling Mortlock left the ground in the second half after being struck by the knee of Blues hooker Keven Mealamu, but Fisher expected him to be right for next week’s home match against the Sharks.
“We took a conservative line with him rather than trying to push him through the remainder of the game,” Fisher said.
“He’d done a fair bit of work and was pretty fatigued.”
Lock Mark Chisholm and flanker George Smith spearheaded the Brumbies forward effort, though Fisher conceded his pack were out pointed in the scrummaging department.Tweet