The ACT Brumbies ground out a 17-16 victory over the Wellington Hurricanes on Saturday to snap a five-match losing streak and condemn the New Zealanders to their worst start to a Super rugby season.
With both sides struggling so far this season, the match never promised to be a classic and so it proved with penalties and errors abounding on a greasy surface at the Canberra Stadium.
Aaron Cruden’s fourth-minute try gave the visitors the perfect start but Fijian winger Henry Speight crossed the line for the Brumbies on the stroke of halftime and four penalties from the boot of flyhalf Matt Giteau secured a narrow victory.
“We had no real choice really, it was a really pleasing effort,” said Wallabies flyhalf Giteau. “Sometimes we were behind and things weren’t going our way, but we stuck in there. It wasn’t pretty but we got the win.”
After just four minutes, Hurricanes flyhalf Cruden charged down fullback Matt Toomua’s low clearance kick and scurried after the ball to touch down despite the close attentions of Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Speight fumbled the ball when he was trying to reach over the try line in the 21st minute and it was left to Giteau to reduce the arrears with two penalty kicks.
Cruden hit back with one of his own to give the Hurricanes a 10-6 lead but it lasted just a minute before Speight made amends for his earlier profligacy with a finish of real class.
Brumbies scrumhalf Josh Valentine made the break at the halfway line and fed lock Mark Chisholm who found Speight inside him at the 22 and two inside steps and a burst of raw pace got the Fijian through the cover defense to the try line.
Cruden was replaced at halftime by Daniel Fitzpatrick and he kicked two penalties in the first five minutes of the second half to put the Hurricanes back in front.
Giteau came into his own then and, despite struggling with a rib injury, kept the Hurricanes pegged back in their own half with some fine kicking from hand and slotted two more penalties to give his side a slender lead they never lost.
The Hurricanes continued to rack up the penalties and for all the strong running from centre Ma’a Nonu could not find a way back into the game, slumping to their fifth defeat.
To add injury to insult, Hurricanes and All Black centre Conrad Smith left the field with blood pouring from his face after taking a nasty blow to the head.
“We started pretty well, we’re making line breaks but we can’t seem to score points,” said skipper Andrew Hore. “It’s a big ask for us now, we have to regroup.” – Reuters