The Brumbies made it three wins out of three matches to continue to lead the way in this season’s Super Rugby Australian Conference. Early dominance in terms of possession and territory was converted into points by the men from Canberra but the Force managed to spark themselves into life in order to keep the match a contest. At times it felt as if once the Force’s defence had been preached it would be an onslaught, however, they remained resolute throughout. The final 17 point winning margin (31-14) was largely due to the David Pocock breakdown masterclass on show in Perth.
With three turnovers to his name on the night, despite spending time off the field in the blood bin, David Pocock reasserted himself as the all-star number 7 in Australian rugby and potentially the world. Whilst player cam is a feature from the recesses of history it is always intriguing to spend a few minutes each game watching not the ball and general play but the background work of a player at his best. The work rate, the determination and the desire to stick his head and hands where they probably should not be, for safety and legality reasons, highlight the skills needed to be a top pilferer. At the 2015 Rugby World Cup he stood out time and time again in a prolific back row that spearheaded the Wallabies push to the final. Against the Force, the Pockcock breakdown masterclass was clearly evident from the start to the 80th minute.
Interestingly, from watching the Brumbies and their work at the breakdown it appears that the burden of turnovers no longer sits solely on the shoulders of Pocock. From one to fifteen every Brumbies play seemed to have the mindset that any ball on the floor was fair play and the first should, neigh must compete. Slowing the ball down or winning turnovers the Brumbies looked equally effective at both. The influence of Pocock stems further than his own play into an ethos across the team to want the ball at all times denying the opposition any time with it. Scott Fardy fell foul to the referee’s whistle a number of times in quick succession in the first half and was close to spending ten minutes in the bin but to watch the bloodied and battered scrum capped head you would think that Pocock was morphing into the six jersey. Substitute Tom Staniforth impressed with his cameo in the second half lifting the tempo and continuing the work rate and desire at the breakdown.
A late try from Josh Mann-Rea added gloss to the score line and compounded the frustrations of the Force. Despite being resolute in defence and with the threats of sparks in attack, ill-discipline in the opening 20 minutes cost the Force dearly and gave the Brumbies an unassailable lead. Even before witnessing the Friday night Pocock breakdown masterclass it was always going to be a tough match for the Force to get anything out of. As it is they managed to withhold the try bonus point from the Brumbies as they searched themselves for the losing bonus point. They must now regroup before daunting task of three back to back games in New Zealand.
The Brumbies having beaten two of last year’s semi-finalists in the opening three rounds of Super Rugby 2016 now face an even sterner test of their championship credentials. Two matches on the road in South Africa against the Stormers and the Cheetahs will challenge the best of sides and they will hope that Pocock and co can continue this vein of form through the next rounds. Spearheading the Australian challenge in Super Rugby this season, the Brumbies head on tour in a buoyant mood top of the conference.