The Brumbies are ruing the one that got away after handing the NSW Waratahs the advantage in the race for a guaranteed place in the Super Rugby finals.
The brave Brumbies, without star playmakers Matt Toomua and Nic White and with David Pocock soldiering on after dislocating a thumb, spurned a late shot at a penalty goal that could have earned a draw.
But captain Stephen Moore and coach Stephen Larkham offered no regrets, just disappointment at being unable to cash in on a one-man advantage in the final quarter of an hour after NSW winger Rob Horne was yellow carded for illegally stopping the Brumbies’ menacing rolling maul.
“It hurts,” Moore said.
“We had a few chances there to score and they defended really well.
“Overall, we never like to lose but I was very proud of the boys’ performance.
“It was very intense – sort of a Test match-type intensity out there, particularly around the tackle area. It was a pretty quick game as well.”
Waratahs and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who was assembling his Rugby Championship and World Cup hopefuls from the two sides in a morning-after gathering on Saturday, lauded the Brumbies for their “courageous” decision not to shoot for a draw.
“I didn’t see it as a particularly risky decision and they went for the win. I’m a person that’s never going to complain about a team that goes for the win,” Cheika said.
“The Brumbies have scored an unbelievable amount of tries off their driving maul so their strike rate is almost as accurate as the goalkicking.”
Larkham’s frustration at the loss, which leaves his team probably needing to win at least four of their remaining five games to make the playoffs.
But he backed Moore’s decision not to offer Christian Lealiifano the chance to level the match in the dying minutes.
“If we get the kick over there, then we take two points, they take two points and we’re (notionally) square on the log as we were before the game,” Larkham said.
“But we made that decision that it was probably 50/50 with the goalkick and back ourselves to play a little bit of footy at the end there.
“A win would’ve been nice, but that’s sort of what we were feeling at the time, because we had a few opportunities and we missed them and we needed to have that next opportunity.”
The Brumbies now head to South Africa for challenging matches against the Stormers and Lions before possibly losing further ground to the Waratahs during their round-15 bye.