The Brumbies U18’s staged an incredible comeback to beat Western Force U18, 32-29 in Albury yesterday, their second win of 2019.
Toni Alofipo’s penalty goal in the 75th minute sealed the famous victory for the Brumbies, overhauling a 17 point deficit to down the Force late in the piece. It took just 17 minutes for WA to open up that 17 point gap before the Brumbies started hitting their straps. Off a quick turnover, the Brumbies broke out of their own half allowing St. Edmunds College wing, Daniel Shaw to gallop home from long range for the ACT opener.
Alofipo couldn’t find the range with the extras, the Brumbies still down 17-5 as the whistle blew for half-time. As if the job needed to be harder, it was WA who struck first after the break. 24-5 down with time not on their side, the Brumbies still looked like they had the juice to get back in the game.
In the 50th minute, the game turned. Off the back of some excellent rush defence, WA coughed the ball up straight into the arms of replacement Lock Ted Pearson, and the Uni-Norths bigman raced home showing a clean pair of heels to give the Brumbies a lifeline. Five minutes later, the Brumbies were in again, this time Wests Junior Pat Maka breaking through a gap to score. Afolipo’s crucial conversion sailed home, cutting the deficit to just five points.
Then, on the hour mark, the Brumbies levelled it up. Captain Tom Hooper combined with fullback down the left edge, the Royals speedster using his footwork to leave defenders in his wake only to give a perfect pass to Shaw for his double. WA weren’t done however, and retook the lead threw a sensational try from their number 8. With time dwindling, again the Brumbies attacked looking to win the game.
Phase after phase, the Brumbies battered the Force’s line and finally it cracked, with Eamon McCoola darting from halfback through the defensive line before popping to Lotefia Tonga for the tying score. Afolipo’s conversion looked handy, just five metres to the right of the post but disaster struck, the ball blowing off the tee in the strong Albury wind meaning no attempt occurred. The kick would have put one Brumbies hoof on the win, but not fazed, the Brumbies attacked off the kick-off.
Showing character and poise beyond their years, the Brumbies played the territory game, putting the pressure on the visitors in their own 22m area. Targeting the breakdown, the Brumbies hammered the Force, not giving an inch to their exceptional opponents.
Eventually, the effort payed off and when it mattered most, the skipper stepped up. With the Force looking to pick and drive their way to a draw, Hooper found himself over the ball and couldn’t be budged, winning a penalty for his side, straight in front of the posts, 35 metres from goal. Step up Tony Alofipo.
With the final kick of the game, the Wests product sent the match winning goal straight through the uprights, capping off a remarkable come from behind victory for the Brumbies.
Brumbies (5) 32 (T: Shaw 2, Pearson, Maka Tonga; C: Afolipo 4 ; P: Afolipo) WA (17) 29
1) Luke Tudulu – Wests Juniors / Temora
2) Liki Chan-Tung – Wests Lions
3) Remsy Lemiso – St Edmund’s College
4) Zephania Tuinona – QBN Whites
5) Jed Stuart – St Edmund’s College
6) Sam Mickelson – Uni-Norths Owls
7) Ryan Jones – Marist College
8) Tom Hooper – Tuggeranong Vikings
9) Hamish Scott – Easts
10) JD Lealiifano – Uni-Norths Owls
11) Daniel Shaw – St Edmund’s College
12) Tony Alofipo – Wests Juniors
13) Harry Buckley – St Edmund’s College
14) Miguel Fernandez – Uni-Norths Owls
15) Zac Ross – Royals
16) Xavier Ward – St Edmund’s College
17) David Kirk – Uni-Norths Owls
18) Christian Mickelson – Uni-Norths Owls
19) Ted Pearson – Uni-Norths Owls
20) Patrick Maka – Wests Juniors
21) Eamon McCoola – St Edmund’s College
22) Harrison O'Connor – Marist College
23) Lotefia Tonga – Wests Juniors