MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The ACT Brumbies have launched an impassioned defence of their no-frills attack after critics laid into the brawny Super Rugby team for leaning on the rolling maul to score tries.
Hooker Folau Fainga’a scored three five-pointers off the back of the maul in the 26-21 win over the Auckland Blues on Saturday to make him the top try scorer in the competition with 10, nine coming from the tactic.
Despite the victory putting them second in the Australian Conference on equal points with the leading Melbourne Rebels, former Brumbies lock turned TV pundit Justin Harrison was unimpressed with the blue collar style.
The 34-cap Wallaby’s criticism triggered a stinging rebuke from Brumbies forwards coach Laurie Fisher, who was unapologetic about the team’s style and rounded on the negative commentary in typically robust style on Twitter.
Winger Toni Pulu on Tuesday said the Dan McKellar-coached team just had to “ignore the haters”.
“I love when the forwards score. It’s hard to even get a maul try these days,” Pulu told reporters in Canberra.
“That’s our strength this year and the backs are happy because our forwards are world class players and sometimes we get in there, too, so we’re involved in those maul tries.
“We’re happy to get a win, it doesn’t matter how we do it.”
Despite boasting a test-strength forward pack and one of the strongest defences in Australia, the Brumbies have been derided by pundits as one of the competition’s stodgiest teams.
They missed the playoffs for the first time in six years last season in McKellar’s first year in charge and match-day crowds at their home Canberra Stadium have plummeted.
McKellar has repeatedly pledged to make the attack more varied, and it was brilliant in the 54-17 victory over the Waikato Chiefs in round two, but his forwards are happy to win “ugly”.
“We go in every week with a game plan and teams have to play to their strengths and the maul has been a strength of ours,” lock Murray Douglas said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s boring rugby, it’s playing to your strengths and analysing opposition and seeing where you can score your points.”
Despite injuries ravaging their stocks of loose forwards, the Brumbies have won three of their last four games and have a chance to snatch top spot in Australia when they face the lowly Tokyo-based Sunwolves at home on Sunday.
They may have to do so without lock Rory Arnold, however, as the Wallaby recovers from a sprained ankle.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Nick Mulvenney