The Brumbies can claim early Australian conference honours after ending a four-match losing streak to the NSW Waratahs with a 32-15 Super Rugby win in Canberra on Friday night.
Stephen Larkham’s men fought hard in the second half in a stop-start affair after the scores were locked at 8-8 at halftime.
While it lacked the polish of their season-opening thrashing of last year’s finalists the Hurricanes, it was enough for their first victory over the Waratahs since March 2014.
And not since that game have they laid on more than 14 points against them.
It was a sweaty and often messy affair in front of 20,142 fans at GIO Stadium, both sides had casualties, though the `Tahs’ list was longer – losing Rob Horne, Tatafu Polota-Nau (wrist) and Bryce Hegarty (knee).
Horne’s injury gave fullback Israel Folau a chance to shift to outside centre and while he had few opportunities, his strong charge set up Nick Phipps’ long-range try that got the Tahs within three points midway through the second half.
The Brumbies were given every chance to set themselves up with plenty of ball in the first half against an ill-disciplined Waratahs, who gave away four penalties in the opening four minutes and lost Will Skelton to the sinbin for a dangerous high tackle.
Christian Lealiifano’s hot-stepping try put the home side up before Folau got the Tahs on the board with a typically powerful charge.
A second Waratahs’ yellow card, this time to Dean Mumm in his 100th match for NSW, didn’t hurt them as they went to the break level at 8-8.
Things heated up with an all-in melee that ended with a bloody – and possibly broken – nose to Matt Toomua.
It only served to fire up both sides, with a five-pointer to Joe Tomane for the Brumbies quickly balanced out by Phipps’ slick try.
A penalty try from a scrum with 12 minutes left gave the hosts a 10-point buffer, and ultimately sealed the game after the Waratahs were denied late by the TMO because of an obstruction.
Nigel Ah Wong capped it off for the Brumbies with a final-minute try.
The Waratahs enjoy a bye next week, while the Brumbies travel to Perth to face the Western Force.