Brumbies set early Super Rugby pace

Catch us if you can – that could be the Super Rugby message from the national capital, with the Brumbies set to take an early-season stranglehold on the Australian conference.

The 32-15 home victory over NSW in a typically fractious Australian derby on Friday underlined the Brumbies as the team to beat in the local conference.

With the Waratahs having a bye next week and the Brumbies away to the Western Force in Perth, the Canberra-based franchise have an early opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Tahs, who were unable to build on their first-week win over the Queensland Reds.

The Force will go into the clash next Friday buoyed by the confidence generated through a gritty 22-6 away win over the hapless Reds.

The result and the poor standard of the Reds play will inevitably create more speculation about the job security of Queensland coach Richard Graham, following a second comprehensive derby defeat in as many rounds.

The Brumbies are the only unbeaten Australian team after two rounds, following a loss for Australia’s other first-week winner, the Melbourne Rebels.

The Victorian franchise is still waiting for their first win on South African soil, following a 45-25 mauling by the Bulls in Pretoria.

The Rebels showed some fight to score four second-half tries after trailing 45-3, but left Loftus Versfeld pointless and winless after 11 matches in South Africa.

In Canberra, the Brumbies asserted themselves in the second half.

Scores were locked at 8-8 after a feisty first half in which Waratahs forwards Will Skelton and Dean Mumm were sin-binned.

“We’re certainly not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham, whose side now plays three straight away games.

“We’ve rolled into the season pretty well, but there’s a lot of work to be done still.”

Brumbies lock Blake Enever suffered a serious shoulder injury and inside centre Matt Toomua was left bloodied after being hit in the nose by Tolu Latu, who was later cited for the incident.

The Waratahs also suffered casualties, with hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau (fractured arm), Rob Horne (knee) and Bryce Hegarty (possible ACL knee damage) all injured, with fullback Israel Folau spending time at outside centre after Horne left the field..

In Brisbane, the Reds struggled to create scoring opportunities, with three of their former players Luke Morahan, Jono Lance and Ian Prior notching all the visitors points.

The always competitive New Zealand conference is shaping up for another season-long scrap for finals positions with no unbeaten teams after two rounds.

Four of the five sides have a 1-1 record with the Hurricanes having lost both their games.

In the battle between the 2015 grand finalists, the defending champion Highlanders edged out the Hurricanes 17-16 in Dunedin, with a late Hayden Parker penalty settling the contest.

New Zealand also produced the shock of the round, with South Africa’s Lions upsetting the Chiefs 36-32 in Hamilton, while the Crusaders beat the Blues 28-13 in Christchurch.

Argentina’s Jaguares finished their South African leg with a 1-1 record despite scoring two tries to one in a 19-15 loss to the Sharks in Durban.

The Sharks are one of three South African teams to have two victories from as many matches, along with the Lions and the Stormers, who scored a 20-10 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

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