The Australian commentators indirectly acknowledged the disadvantage that South African teams are under whenever they first arrive Down Under when the Western Force came back from being dead and buried to beat the Brumbies 29-22 in a Vodacom Super 14 match in Perth on Friday.
Gavin Rich writes for Superrugby that the Force looked out of it before they stamped their authority just before half time and then after it as they accumulated 29 unanswered points to end the Laurie Fischer era as Brumbies coach on a sad, losing note. It was the first time in the season that the Force had won against a fellow Australian team. They trailed 22-7 at half time.
The match did not count towards the exciting final countdown to the semifinals, with both teams having just pride to play for. But for entertainment and drama, the match did not let those who watched it down, with both teams playing an exciting, expansive style of rugby that saw eight tries scored in the match.
The Brumbies started as if they had a train to catch, and raced into a 22-0 lead which ensured that they had grabbed their bonus point for scoring four tries before the half-time hooter had sounded.
However, a good try from young rookie centre James O’Connor just before half time put substance to the perception that holes were starting to open up in the Brumbies’ defensive system. That is the way it turned out, with the Force doing what they had to do by scoring twice in quick succession soon after the break to cut the deficit to just three points with half an hour to play.
The third of those comeback tries was scored by Matt Giteau running through a huge gap in the Brumbies defence, and it was a fitting try against his old teammates as he was very much the mastermind and director of operations in the Force back division.
It looked at that stage that the Force would overrun the Brumbies in the same way that they themselves were overrun in the first half, but with the help of some strong scrumming, the Brumbies managed to prevent the tide against them from becoming too strong.
But when Mark Gerrard was caught in possession near his own line, a sustained period of Force attacking eventually put scrumhalf Chris O’Young through for a converted try that put the home team ahead for the first time in the match. That made it 26 unanswered points, and the momentum had really shifted against the men from Canberra.
That was when the commentators started fingering the debilitating effect of the flight eastward from South Africa, something they acknowledged was more problematic in terms of jetlag than the flight in the other direction to play in South Africa.
It is also true that the Brumbies were completing a difficult tour which saw them lose to both the Stormers and the Bulls on successive weekends.
In the first half though the Brumbies showed that they could be a difficult team to contend with in years to come as the young players on their books mature and settle into Super 14 rugby. One of those is young winger Francis Fainifo, who before this game had yet to score in the competition.
By the end of the game he had scored twice, his first effort coming within the first two minutes as he pounced on bouncing ball following a chip ahead for the opening try for the Brumbies. The Brumbies were impressive with the way they maintained possession and strung their passing game together in the first half but, after that, in a manner of speaking, it all went west.
Western Force 29 – Tries: Matt Giteau, James O’Connor, Chris O’Young, Jame Tatupu; Conversions: Matt Giteau 3; Penalty: Matt Giteau.
Brumbies 22 – Tries: Francis Fainifo 2, Mark Gerrard, Adam Ashley-Cooper; Conversion: Stirling Mortlock.Tweet