What did we learn from the Brumbies’ loss to the Blues?
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1. Ball in Waratahs court
The Brumbies’ loss has put all of the control into NSW’s hands ahead of the finals run. With Friday’s result, the Brumbies still sit on the top of the Australian conference with one win up on the Waratahs, though they sit on the same number of points. A losing bonus point is all the Waratahs need against the Hurricanes in Sydney on Saturday night to put them in front with one game left. Though, they’ll be going for more than that.
2. Back row battlers
David Pocock is already missing and replacement number eight Ben Hyne lasted just four minutes on debut a weeks ago, but the Brumbies back row bad luck is far from over. Blindside flanker Scott Fardy added to their woes in Auckland, driven off in a medicab after a head clash with number eight Jarrad Butler. Fardy’s head knock was the latest in a series of bumps and cuts for the flanker on the night, seemingly the final straw in a typically brutal game from the 32-year-old.
3. Trans-Tasman trials
The Brumbies’ New Zealand drought continued, with their loss against Auckland taking a losing streak across the ditch to five matches.They haven’t been able to beat a New Zealand team since their scintillating opening round win over the Hurricanes, a match that seems like a very distant memory as the season approaches.
4. Outsiders can shape finals
The Blues are well out of finals contention but they showed in their Eden Park efforts that anyone can have an impact on the log. A bonus point win for the Brumbies would have given the Canberra side an easier night’s sleep on Friday night but the Blues simply didn’t let it happen. A warning for every side in the competition and maybe a timely reminder for sides like the Reds, Rebels and Force, who have little to play for in terms of finals.
5. Silver bullet not the saviour
The Brumbies lineout is a weapon that has proven incredibly effective for them in recent seasons and was again the lead-in to tries on Friday night. Their reliance on it, though, is as predictable as it is effective. The ACT side spoke ad nauseum in preseason and at the start o the year about adding attacking flair but that commitment has well and truly faded into the background. The Blues’ multi-faceted attack really exposed that at Eden Park, slipping through gaps in patchy ACT defence.