Brumbies dispatched as NSW Women throw down the gauntlet
Photo: J.B Photography
And on they go. The NSW Waratahs Women have maintained their unbeaten run in Super W, with a dominant 41-8 victory over Brumbies Women at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta last night.
Playing the curtain-raiser for the Waratahs v Lions clash, the reigning two-time champions took their time to get the upper hand over a Brumby side that were two from two in 2020, and leading the competition ladder before kick-off. But after a first quarter arm wrestle edged 5-3 by the home side, they flexed their muscles before half-time with a couple more five-pointers to open up a handy advantage, and went on with it fine style after the break, running in three more and only conceding a late consolation with three minutes to go and with two players in the sin bin.
Next up are arch-rivals Queensland Women, at Ballymore, next Saturday afternoon. And once again it’s the team from north of the Tweed Heads that loom as their biggest challenger to a third successive title.
It was the visitor’s who had opened the scoring, a confident start bearing fruit with a penalty dispatched by Samantha Wood after the front row won a penalty at scrum time. But they were soon under pressure at the other end, a double-team tackle needed to stop a powerful surge from Mahalia Murphy when she found space on the left flank.
The Canberrans were dealt a massive blow on 10 minutes, 2019 Super W Player of the Year Tayla Stanford forced from the field with a knee injury, only two games into her comeback from an ACL to the other knee. Fingers crossed for her, the Brumbies, and the Wallaroos that this was not as serious.
New South Wales ramped up the pressure, building phases off a lineout to test the Brumbies Women’s goal-line defence, and flyhalf Pauline Piliae held up over the line. But they came again, and when fullback Chloe Leaupepe flattened the line and carved a path between two defenders, she had captain Grace Hamilton on her outside to give the Premiers the lead.
Having been under the pump since they opened the scoring, the Brumbies finally got back inside the opposition 22 when a nice line from co-captain Michaela Leonard breached the Waratahs’ impressive linespeed. They then set about grinding forward metre by metre, only for a turnover to cruel their progress, and the missed opportunity proved costly as New South Wales made them pay with a second five-pointer.
Using the width of the field they stressed the Brumbies defence, Leaupepe chiming in well from fullback as a second receiver on numerous occasions to give her side a second playmaker, pulling the strings and opening up space for the pace of Murphy, Shanice Parker and Maya Stewart.
And after back-to-back penalties kept them in the red zone, scrumhalf Ili Batibasaga took the tap option for Hamilton to skittle a few defenders, before it went down the line for Leaupepe to dive for the corner to extend the home side’s lead.
They had a third just after the half hour, the Waratahs again attacking with width and drawing a couple of over-eager tacklers out of the line, to give Parker the space to send Maya Stewart away for her fourth try in three halves of Super W footy this season.
Brumbies Women needed something before the break, and they looked like getting it through openside Ema Masi when she was on the end of a swift backline move and set off down the touchline. But she was quickly reeled in by what appeared to be a superb tackle from Sera Naiqama on first look, only for the referee to rule it as high.
New South Wales conceded a penalty at the next lineout to give the visitor’s another sniff. But their combative defence – the diminutive Batibasaga in particular enjoying a stellar tackle count in the opening stanza – fronted up to force a couple of errors and keep their line intact as both teams went to the sheds.
It was a case of deja vu five minutes after the restart, Batibasaga taking another quick tap off a scrum penalty and the Waratahs going through the hands for Parker to make good ground. She was hauled down shy of the line, but when reinforcements arrived and Batibasaga and Katrina Barker combined, Stewart was on hand to find the corner for her second.
With confidence levels rising, the title holders put their foot to the floor with try number five with half an hour still to go. The catalyst was the effervescent Hamilton, stripping Talei Wilson in the tackle before spinning it wide for the impressive Parker to free Murphy near the touchline, and the former Sevens star had too much gas for the Brumby chasers to run it in from halfway in style.
That gave coach Campbell Aitken the chance to bring on some fresh legs, and with the Brumbies Women losing structure, another score was on the cards. A poor kick downfield was taken by Leaupepe and returned with interest given the lack of chasers, the fullback carving a path wide for Barker to find Murphy, and this time replacement Emily Chancellor was on her inside for the killer pass and a popular run to the posts.
The Brumbies got some pressure in the opposition 22 at last, and successive penalties led to a yellow card for home prop Eva Karpani. But the New South Wales defence was in determined mood, and after banging on the door for several phases with no success, a turnover allowed Arabella McKenzie to show her class with a sidestep in her own 22, and a booming exit kick to touch close to halfway.
Having withstood their sternest test in the match at one end with 14 on the pitch, the Waratah girls were soon back on the front-foot at the other to put some icing on the cake. Shanice Parker was proving to be a real handful with ball in hand, and her jinking run through the midfield traffic looked to have opened the door for her first try of the season. But when she was halted by a desperate tackle from Samantha Wood, there was Barker on hand to hit it up and fire it wide for predatory captain Hamilton to stride home.
Credit the Brumbies for not throwing in the towel, a 15-metre rolling maul getting them back within range in the 72nd minute. But the Tahs goal line scramble defence was superb, dominant tackles driving their opponents backwards with Oneata Schwalger a woman possessed, and Chancellor pulling off an incredible try-saver on Ema Masi under the posts. However, further penalties drew a warning from the referee and then a second yellow card, this time for Katrina Barker.
It was three when Sera Naiqama was also sent to purgatory as the Brumbies sustained their late all-out assault, the only positive for the Tahs the return of Karpani in the other direction. But the dam had to break eventually, the Brumbies sticking to a popular MO down Canberra way by driving a maul all the way to the line for prop Louise Burrows to spin on the floor and grab a deserved consolation.
That’s two from two in 2020, and now 12 from 12 in the history of Super W for this NSW Waratahs Women team. With a bevy of potent options in attack, and the desire and determination they show in defence, it’s going to take some side to prevent a three-peat of titles.
Post-match thoughts from head coach Campbell Aitken – Video courtesy of NSWRU Media
NSW WARATAHS WOMEN 41 (Grace Hamilton 2, Maya Stewart 2, Chloe Leaupepe, Mahalia Murphy, Emily Chancellor tries, Arabella McKenzie 3 cons) defeated BRUMBIES WOMEN 8 (Louise Burrows try; Samantha Wood pen) HT 15-3 at Bankwest Stadium
NSW WARATAHS WOMEN: 1. Bridie O’Gorman; 2. Adiana Talakai; 3. Evelyn Horomia; 4. Jemima Henry; 5. Sera Naiqama; 6. Jade Huggins; 7. Fi Jones; 8. Grace Hamilton (c); 9. Iliseva Batibasaga; 10. Pauline Piliae; 11. Mahalia Murphy; 12. Katrina Barker; 13. Shanice Parker; 14. Maya Stewart; 15. Chloe Leaupepe
Replacements: 16. Eva Karpani; 17. Oneata Schwalger; 18. Tasmin Sheppard; 19. Aaliyah Fasavalu-Fa’amausili; 20. Emily Chancellor; 21. Arabella McKenzie; 22. Layne Morgan; 23. Kennedy Cherrington
BRUMBIES WOMEN: 1. Peta Cox; 2. Harriet Elleman; 3. Louise Burrows; 4. Michaela Leonard (cc); 5. Emily Sogal; 6. Zali Waihape-Andrews; 7. Ema Masi; 8. Tayla Stanford; 9. Jane Garraway (cc); 10. Ella Ryan; 11. Darcy Read; 12. Sammi Wood; 13. Pesi Palu; 14. Gabrielle Petersen; 15. Talei Wilson
Replacements: 16. Tania Afamasaga; 17. Niki Paterson; 18. Iris Verebalavu; 19. Grace Sullivan; 20. Pearl Rakete; 21. Phoebe Loughhead; 22. Claudia Obst; 23. Ainsley Scrivener