After an uninspiring opening to their French tour (losing their first two matches) the Brumbies, with some Wallabies back on deck, defeated the current Top 14 champions, USA Perpignan.
At the Stade Aimé Giral, located at the southern point of France, the Brumbies put in a vastly improved performance, and defeated the seven-time French domestic champions on the back of a stubborn defensive performance and upped physicality that was missing in their first two matches.
Patrick Phibbs scored the opening try of the match, capitalising on a Brumbies turnover in their own half to run unopposed to shock the home team.
After leading 10-0 at halftime, an admittedly weakened Perpignan side turned up the pressure launching wave after wave of attack.
The Top 14 champions coach, Jacques Brunel, built his side last year as a multi-dimensional offensive team. Against the Australians, a heady mix of running rugby and forward drives showed their capability with the ball in hand.
However the Brumbies, even without scrumhalf Josh Valentine, who was sin-binned midway through the match, tackled like men possessed.
Even though the Brumbies defensive systems were missing in action throughout the Super 14, being the fifth worst defensive side in the competition, Brumbies coach Tony Rea certainly had his troops up for this match.
The home team would not score a single point, and went down 17-0 to a Brumbies side that came seventh in this year’s Super 14 (winning eight and losing five).
Naturally, Rea was proud of his men.
“The guys prepared well and had their heads on for what was a tough match,” he said.
“We learned where we needed to be physically from the first two games and we were able to bully them on the ball and we were rewarded for it. We realised that we needed to win every collision for the 80 minutes, we did and we got the result.”
“This tour has been a very demanding one. There’s been a lot of travel, many sleepless nights and limited opportunities for training but tonight the team showed a lot of character. Tonight the tough times on the field moulded the team as a group rather than broke them.”
The Brumbies lost their first match of the tour with a 20-12 loss to CS Bourgoin-Jallieu at Stade Pierre Rajon, and followed this up with a disappointing 37-21 loss to Aviron Bayonnais.
The sojourn so far has proved to be beneficial for the Brumbies, despite rumblings from some parties back home that the franchise did the current Australian domestic competitions, such as the Canberra based John I Dent Cup, no favours by taking the Brumbies overseas.
Their final match will be against RC Toulonnais (Toulon) at the Stade Mayol on Thursday.
There were 12 first-choice players missing from the Perpignan side, in what was effectively their first match of the 2009/10 season.
Brumbies 17 (Patrick Phibbs, Ben Hand tries; Christian Lealiifano 2 conversions, penalty goal) defeated USA Perpignan 0
Brumbies: 1. Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 2. Nathan Charles, 3. Salesi Ma’afu, 4. Ben Hand, 5. Peter Kimlin, 6. Henry Vanderglas, 7. Colby Faingaa, 8. Stephen Hoiles (c), 9. Josh Valentine, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Francis Fainifo, 12. Tyrone Smith, 13. Andrew Smith, 14. Alfi Mafi, 15. Pat McCabe
Reserves: 16. Anthony Hegarty, 17. Guy Shepherdson, 18. Sitaleki Timani, 19. Sokai Tai, 20. Patrick Phibbs, 21. Matt Toomua, 22. Shaun Foley, 23. Robbie Coleman, 24. Afusipa Taumoepeau, 25. Nic White, 26. Ed Gower
The USA Perpignan squad for the Brumbies match: Freshwater, Chobet, Bourrust, Brison, Schuster, Geli, Tincu, Britz, Olibeau, Alvarez-Kairélis, Vilaceca, Vivalda, Guiry, Tuilagi, Perez, Durand, Cazenave, Hume, Laharrague, Grandclaude, Marty, Manas, Candelon, Porical, Burger, Michel, Battle