Dejected Brumbies on the bench after the 13-8 loss. Photo: Matt BedfordThere must be serious question marks over the ACT Brumbies’ title credentials after their woeful loss to the Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night. Just hours after reigning champions NSW Waratahs became the first team to beat the Wellington Hurricanes this season, the Brumbies produced an error-riddled effort to present the Rebels with their first-ever win at Canberra. While the Brumbies remain at the top of the Australian conference, the Waratahs have a game in hand and seem to be hitting their straps in a manner similar to last season when they embarked on a mid-season run to the title. The Brumbies, on the other hand, are stumbling, having lost two in a row and the loss of playmaker Matt Toomua (ankle), potentially until the eve of the finals, looks a big one. Last week they lost against the winless Auckland Blues, who sat at the bottom of the ladder, and now they’ve gone down to a struggling Rebels outfit. Coach Stephen Larkham will need to turn things around quickly if the Brumbies are going to be contenders come finals time. Not many Brumbies diehards
You know conditions are bad when a New South Welshman is feeling sympathy for a Canberran. Phil Kearns had plenty of sympathy for the 7531 fans who turned up to Canberra Stadium in terrible conditions. He said you’ve “got to be a diehard here tonight” as the rain streamed down at the start of the second half. The Brumbies are desperately trying to turn around a decline in crowds in recent years, but Mother Nature did little to help their cause. Canberrans might also have had an idea about how the Brumbies were going to play as they struggled to get anything going in the wet. When’s Chief Minister Andrew Barr going to sort that rectangular, covered Civic Stadium for us? Could the few remaining scrum-halfs please stand up
Has Melbourne Rebels No.9 Nick Stirzaker announced himself as a future Wallabies scrum-half? With Nic White, Will Genia and Luke Burgess all heading off overseas, Michael Cheika will be looking around for who can back up NSW Waratahs No.9 Nick Phipps in coming years. Stirzaker certainly staked his claims in the wet at Canberra Stadium. He showed great awareness to skip away from the base of the Rebels scrum to set up his side’s first try and then almost repeated the trick down the blindside in the second half. How scary is David Pocock?
Anyone who’s seen Brumbies flanker David Pocock with his shirt off will understand why referee Angus Gardner got a bit worried when Pocock was getting fired up. Gardner could be heard pleading with Pocock: “Please don’t yell at me.” It seemed to be part of a running battle between Gardner and several senior Brumbies players during the night as Scott Fardy and captain Stephen Moore also had repeated chats with the whistle-blower. Not a fun time at scrum time
It was fitting that the last two minutes of the game petered out with the continual repacking of scrums, much to the frustration of the Brumbies. The home side had a nightmare with that aspect of the set-piece. If they weren’t getting penalised as the Rebels pack pushed them around, they were turning the ball over against their own feed. It will be something scrum doctor Dan Palmer will need to address during the week if the Brumbies want to end their two-game losing streak against the Otago Highlanders this week.
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