Brumbies pip Waratahs in Australian rugby match of the year, Max Jorgensen stars, analysis, highlights

ACT Brumbies, featured, Rugby, Rugby Union, Super Rugby Pacific, Waratahs

The rivalry is anything but dead, but the Brumbies still reign supreme after winning an epic over the Waratahs in Canberra.

In the best Australian derby of the season, the Brumbies stole the match in the 78th minute as flying winger Corey Toole scored out wide to give the home side a 40-36 lead. It didn’t change, as the Brumbies showed their game smarts to wind down the clock before Jack Debreczeni sent a spiral torpedo into the stands to end the match.

By doing so, the Brumbies won their 11th straight match over the rivals just up the Hume Highway.

“It was unreal,” Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa said.

“I think we were under pressure a lot in the first half and we made it hard for ourselves, but you’ve got to be proud of the boys.

“It wasn’t perfect tonight and our energy was a bit low, but we still found a way to win and that’s something to be proud of. I thought our finishers came on and did an awesome job in the back half.”

Len Ikitau scored a first-half try to help lead the Brumbies to a 40-36 victory over the Waratahs in Canberra. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

Waratahs captain Jake Gordon couldn’t hide his emotion, lamenting his side’s inability to win the big moments.

“The effort has been there for a lot of the year but it’s our inaccuracy around the decisive areas of the game [that is costing us],” Gordon said.

“I’m pretty disappointed. I thought we did well for large parts of the game but got a bit unlucky there.”

Earlier in the week, Brumbies chairman Matt Nobbs set the cat amongst the pigeons by saying their rivalry with the Waratahs had lost its lustre in recent years.

“It used to be a great rivalry,” he said. “It’s still called Tah week, but the sting’s gone out of it.”

Those comments stung Gordon on full-time, who alluded to them when asked about the rivalry between the two sides.

“Yeah, well according to the chairman it isn’t,” he said.

“But we thought it was a great game. They got a really good crowd and they got behind them and we love playing the Brums. We want the rivalry to keep going, we just need to perform better.”

Max Jorgensen was fantastic on his return to the Waratahs’ side from a shoulder injury. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images

The reality is though, Nobbs’ comments struck a nerve during the week and the Waratahs finally woke from their slumber. If anything, the chairman should be thanked for ruffling some feathers.

The match was a beauty, with three yellow cards to the visitors, 11 tries and a number of lead changes as the Waratahs came to Canberra with a bee in their bonnet.

After a frustrating opening five weeks to the competition, Wallabies coach Eddie Jones would have sat back and finally enjoyed seeing someone other than the Brumbies put in a shift.

On Sunday afternoon he will name his first Wallabies squad and he will have much to ponder following the previous evening’s events.

Both sides had several standout performers, with James Slipper showing why he will remain a key figure in Jones’ World Cup plans this year.

The incumbent Wallabies captain scored a try in both halves and did a number on the Waratahs’ pack at the scrum, with props Harry Johnson-Holmes and Daniel Botha sent to the sin bin late in the first half.

First-time father and outside centre Len Ikitau had a brilliant 40 minutes before being replaced at half-time because of a calf complaint, while his midfield partner Tamati Tua also had a strong evening.

Toole was once again lively on the wing, while replacement halves Ryan Lonergan and Debreczeni lifted the tempo when they come on in the second half.

The Waratahs’ star-studded side finally flexed their muscles too, with the back-row excellent and Jed Holloway a nuisance at the lineout.

Centres Lalakai Foketi and Izaia Perese finally combined well while outside backs Mark Nawaqanitawase, Dylan Piestch and Max Jorgensen showed plenty of spark with ball-in-hand.

After Ben Donaldson missed a relatively straightforward shot at goals early, the Waratahs finally got out of the blocks quickly as Pietsch crossed following some strong lead-up work from Taleni Seu, Ned Hanigan and Michael Hooper.

Dave Porecki’s try in the 17th minute saw the Waratahs take an early 14-point lead, before Ikitau struck back by running beautifully onto a clever grubber from Tua.

The Brumbies had all the momentum when Johnson-Holmes was shown a yellow card after a series of penalties from the Waratahs in the 27th minute. Three minutes later replacement prop Botha joined him.

But despite the numerical advantage, the Brumbies were pinged at their rolling maul and then conceded as Holloway barged his way over to score.

The home side managed to get back on track when Slipper stormed through a hole left open by a tiring, lazy defence and an offside Foketi as the front-rower showed pace to hit back on the stroke of half-time.

It looked like Tua had levelled up the match in the 49th minute when he scored under the posts, but the TMO found Noah Lolesio’s inside ball to Andy Muirhead was forward.

Rubbing salt into the wound, some magic play from the Waratahs’ backs, Jorgensen particularly, saw Foketi score moments later.

While Slipper’s second came at just right the second, Nawaqanitawase’s chip-and-chase down the right-hand touchline saw the visitors run out to a 33-21 lead after 55 minutes.

But tries to Pete Samu and hooker Lachie Lonergan in-between a Hooper yellow card saw the home side hit the lead.

A penalty to Donaldson put the visitors back in front, but the Waratahs shot themselves in the foot by not being able to win the kick restart.

Soon after, flying winger Toole scored and the Brumbies, Nobbs especially, had the last laught.

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