Dan McKellar admits he feels "plenty of sympathy" for a battered arch-rival after the ACT Brumbies dealt the NSW Waratahs a record-shattering 51-point thrashing that may cast doubt over the future of his coaching counterpart.
The Brumbies have secured their biggest win over bitter rivals NSW in Super Rugby history with a 61-10 shellacking at Canberra Stadium in front of 9322 on Saturday night.
Waratahs coach Rob Penney says he is "not going to stand in the way" if powerbrokers don't think he is the right man to steer the club out of the doldrums.
The Brumbies rose to the top of the Super Rugby AU ladder in the nine-try drubbing, while the decimated Waratahs' worst loss to the Brumbies came a week after a record loss to Queensland.
The Brumbies' wingers were a class above; Mack Hansen scored a hat-trick while Andy Muirhead caught the eye of All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens.
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The rolling maul was a thing of beauty; the Brumbies scored three tries off one of their most potent attacking weapons to again stamp themselves as the excellence of execution.
And the fans? They were back too. The round two showdown marked the first time Canberra Stadium had been devoid of crowd caps in almost 12 months as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
But Penney has plenty more to worry about after their season started amid rumours of unrest following questions regarding list management and word the mentor was skating on thin ice.
"I feel plenty of sympathy for them. I don't think it's Rob's responsibility over how they've functioned and worked as a club over the past few years," McKellar said.
"He's a good coach, he's shown in the past, he has had success, he has got outstanding assistant coaches. They're a very young group, and at this level, if you're inexperienced and get put under pressure, there's a lot less time, a lot less space, it's hard to function.
"I feel for them as a club, but for Australian rugby, we want a strong Waratahs side. They've had a tough couple of weeks but they'll bounce back.
"I'd probably pull the beers out and say 'boys, let's have a beer and make sure we stick tight and stick together, and don't go bagging each other or anyone else'.
"The only way you're going to get out of it is through working hard and sticking tight."
NSW have now conceded 102 points in their first two games this season and find themselves needing a minor miracle to reverse their fortunes with the absences of captain Jake Gordon, Will Harris, Joey Walton and Izaia Perese decimating the squad.
"I love these boys and I'm doing my best. If other people think I'm not the right person [to coach], I'm not going to stand in the way. It's what's right for the group which is the important thing," Penney said.
"We've got to be careful, because they're good boys, and they are proud boys, and they are hurting big time. There'll be people out there saying we're not hard enough on them, but you can't whip a dog when it's down.
"The last thing we want to do is dent any confidence they do have. We care about them, they're humans first, rugby players second, and bloody good rugby players, and they'll bounce."
The Brumbies extended their winning streak to seven matches at the fortress, giving the club their biggest home crowd in more than a year. So what did those rugby-starved fans see on a summer night in Canberra?
They saw flyhalf Noah Lolesio rising among a pack of giants with a smile on his face, as the little engine that could scored from a rolling maul.
They saw a dominant scrum from a barnstorming forward pack. They saw sublime ball movement in a star-studded back line. They saw Muirhead igniting the Brumbies' attack.
"The growth in this team is making sure we finish teams off, and not release pressure and be our own worst enemy. I thought the boys were brilliant in the second half," McKellar said.
"I thought the forwards were superb to be honest, scrum and maul, we thought we could gain some dominance there and we did. Talking about it during the week is one thing, but delivering on it [is another]. One to eight, and the boys that came off the bench were excellent.
"Mack has been banging on the door at this level at training for a number of years, trained really well, hasn't been in the 23 and just sticks at it.
"Tonight he gets a reward for all that hard work no one else sees. It was pleasing what the forwards delivered, our outside backs decide by how many, and tonight they had a night out."
AT A GLANCE
Super Rugby AU round two: ACT BRUMBIES 61 (Mack Hansen 3, Rob Valetini, Noah Lolesio, Connal McInerney, Nic White, Lachlan Lonergan, Tom Banks tries; Lolesio 5, Ryan Lonergan 2 conversions) bt NSW WARATAHS 10 (Harry Johnson-Holmes try; Will Harrison conversion; Harrison penalty) at Canberra Stadium. Crowd: 9322.