The Waratahs will host the Crusaders, the most successful team in Super Rugby, next week and the Brumbies will travel to Christchurch to play on April 4.
MORE INJURY WOES?
It’s lucky Brumbies coach Dan McKellar is a former prop because he might have to dust off the long-studded boots at training next week.
Wallabies loosehead prop Scott Sio and boom rookie Rob Valetini both limped off the field in the second half. Sio appeared to injure his shoulder or pectoral, while Valetini was in agony after his knee twisted awkwardly.
The Brumbies are already without Wallabies duo Allan Alaalatoa and David Pocock, giving McKellar massive headaches for the clash against the Queensland Reds next week.
Luckily the Brumbies recruited 86-Test prop James Slipper this year, giving McKellar a pretty handy loosehead-prop replacement.
But the back-row depth will be tested without Pocock, Valetini and Ben Hyne, who will miss the entire season with a knee injury.
ROLLING MAUL A THING OF BEAUTY
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Brumbies have become used to copping criticism for scoring tries by using a well set-up maul when they get close to the line.
But the only logical explanation for the criticism is opposition jealousy. Folau Faingaa has been the major beneficiary, giving the hooker a try-scoring strikerate that would make a winger blush.
Faingaa sets up perfectly at the back and has a knack of knowing when to go to ground, making him the first Brumby to score in five consecutive games since Andrew Walker in 2003.
Faingaa would have scored his third had the Waratahs not illegally pulled down another maul in the second half, which prompted referee Glen Jackson to award a penalty try.
Clearly the maul is working. But, at times, the Brumbies have bowed to external pressure and moved away from something they do so well. The message is simple: if the maul works, use it.
SMALL MARGINS IN SUPER RUGBY
The little moments have cost the Brumbies dearly at the start of the Super Rugby season. Missed tackles, dropped balls and lapses in concentration have created major headaches.
The Waratahs benefited early when Bernard Foley’s penalty shot hit the posts, but Michael Hooper showed the most urgency to spin out of three tackles and score the opening try.
It’s been a frustrating part of the Brumbies’ game this year and it has no doubted contributed to more disappointing crowds.
Just 12,122 fans watched what is traditionally the Brumbies’ best-attended game of the season. It was a drop from 13,515 for the corresponding fixture last season.
The formula for filling the stands and winning games is simple: win the small moments.
RUGBY WARRIOR MCCAFFREY FOR WALLABIES?
Lachlan McCaffrey limps and hobbles his way through his time on the field and uses almost as much strapping tape as Stephen Larkham.
But he’s a rugby warrior and hopefully Wallabies coach Michael Cheika starts taking notice. The versatile back-rower out-pointed Wallaby duo Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey on Friday night.
All the back-row hype in Canberra is about David Pocock, the rise of Rob Valetini and the arrival of Pete Samu. But McCaffrey is the one the Brumbies regard as a future captain.
Cheika was in the crowd in Canberra and former Brumby Rod Kafer says the Test coach should start looking at the 28-year-old.
“His form has been great, not just tonight but at the start of this season,” Kafer said.
“He’s a real genuine No. 8, he’s got those skills, runs nice lines, can distributist, can play hard over the ball. He’s a guy who will come into calculations at some point”
AT A GLANCE
ACT BRUMBIES 19 (Folau Faingaa 2, penalty try tries; Christian Lealiifano conversion) bt NSW WARATAHS 13 (Michael Hooper, Alex Newsome tries; Bernard Foley penalty) at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Referee: Glen Jackson. Crowd: 12,122.
Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.