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Uphill battle for ACT Brumbies to make Super Rugby finals

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 25/05/2014 Chris Dutton

The ACT Brumbies face the biggest challenge of their new generation if they want to make the Super Rugby finals and coach Stephen Larkham says they need to rein in their eagerness to end a horror form slump.

The Brumbies are seventh on the ladder after a disastrous two-game tour of South Africa which saw them tumble four spots and out of a finals position.

It’s just the third time in three years the Brumbies have slipped outside the top six and their 44-23 loss to the Pretoria Bulls was their biggest defeat since the end of 2011.

Making the play-off charge tougher is that the Brumbies’ last three games of the season will be played over seven weeks, a blow to the plan to build momentum.

The Brumbies are desperate to arrest their alarming slide down the rankings when they return to Canberra to play the Melbourne Rebels on Saturday night.

“We have to win against the Rebels. We have to win all of our games. But we have to win this week first and foremost,” Larkham said.

“We’ve lacked rhythm and momentum in attack.

“But after that the structure of the competition will probably help us. We’ll have more time to get some training under our belts and that’s something we haven’t had over the last month.”

The Brumbies’ plan to play attacking rugby has been hampered by a disrupted set piece over the past four weeks.

They have won just one of the their past four games and the Western Force jumped ahead of the Brumbies when they secured a bonus-point win against the Johannesburg Lions.

The NSW Waratahs (39 points) lead the Australian conference, ahead of the Force (36) and the Brumbies (35).

The Brumbies play the Waratahs and the Force in their last two games of the season.

The Brumbies have dropped out of the top six just three times since the start of 2012 – the last regular-season game of 2012, the first game of this season and then the 21-point loss to the Bulls.

“We let ourselves down against the Bulls. We were 20 points down at half-time and we were trying to chase the game,” fullback Jesse Mogg said.

“It’s not an ideal situation, but we can’t worry about the ladder. It’s just about winning games.

“We were disappointed with our performance against the Rebels earlier this year and I know for a fact we’ll be up for this game.”

The loss to the Bulls was the first time this year the Brumbies have suffered back-to-back defeats.

The Brumbies will be aiming to make amends at the set piece when they play the Rebels.

The scrum has struggled in recent weeks and crippled the backline’s hopes of playing attacking rugby.

But more worrying is that they have given opposition goalkickers 26 chances to score points in the past four games, including eight against the Bulls.

Larkham said the Brumbies’ discipline needed to be addressed.

“We’ve already spoken about it. Some of the scrum penalties [against the Brumbies] in the Bulls game, I thought some interpretations were wrong and we got penalised out of it,” Larkham said.

“Our game thrives on set-piece ball … we’re a little disappointed with the way that’s been going, but it’s not one area [that’s letting the team down].

“I thought our phase defence held up well. It was just some lapses that cost us.

“We’re giving away penalties in the first 15 minutes and teams get a lead on us. We’ve spoken about the offside line … it’s guys being a bit too eager, not lazy.”

BRUMBIES RUN HOME

May 31: v Melbourne Rebels (Canberra)

June 28: v NSW Waratahs (Sydney)

July 11: v Western Force (Canberra) 

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