July 19, 2014
The Brumbies will go to either Sydney or Christchurch for their Super Rugby semi-final after they beat the Chiefs 32-30 at GIO Stadium on Saturday.
Should the Sharks win against the Highlanders in Durban the Brumbies will face an Australian derby against the Waratahs, but if the result goes the other way it will be a trip to take on the Crusaders.
But let us just reflect on what an outstanding and absorbing game of knockout rugby this was, with the Chiefs giving everything in their attempt to recover from being 22-3 down at one point in the game.
The Brumbies, as is their wont on home soil, came out of the traps with real intent as their wide game caused the Chiefs plenty of problems in the opening quarter. In fact they managed to get over three times through Nic White, Robbie Coleman and Jesse Mogg as the hosts grabbed the initiative.
Aaron Cruden had made it 0-3 after Brumbies flanker Scott Fardy wasn't supporting his own body weight at ruck time but that was as good as it got.
So followed an onslaught from the hosts an in-form Henry Speight was outstanding with ball in hand while White was marshalling his forwards well. Speight it was who was the first to go close to scoring on the right before recycled ball found Mogg who got to within three points before being hauled down. Referee Craig Joubert subsequently went to his pocket at that ruck as Tim Nanai-Williams slowed down the ball. It was a right call.
It would prove to be a costly ten minutes as from that offence, the Brumbies went to the line-out, drove and White saw space on the blindside that seemed more sloppy from the Chiefs than brilliant from White. Centre Christian Lealiifano was on-target from close to the sideline to make it 7-3.
The Brumbies doubled their score on ten minutes when a poor chip from Chiefs full-back Dwayne Sweeney, in for Tom Marshall, saw White sweep up well before finding Mogg on the left, who in turn sprinted into the red zone and then handed it on to Coleman who finished strongly. It was now 14-3.
Soon-to-be Wallaby Speight was continuing to cause damage in the visitors; defence before then came a 20-phase charge from the hosts that saw White and Mogg again combine, this time the full-back was the scorer on the left sideline as the Chiefs found themselves trailing by sixteen in Canberra.
Lealiifano's missed conversion was followed up by a penalty just before the half-hour but then came a response form the Chiefs as sustained pressure on led to Bundee Aki crashing over from five metres out. In truth the Brumbies should have had a player in the sin-bin for slowing down at the ruck.
At 22-10 the game was in the balance coming up to the interval so when the Brumbies snubbed three points and instead went to the corner, it left the supporters scratching their head as that penalty would have given them a fifteen-point lead. As it was the Chiefs held out to stay within two scores.
The first score after the break was always going to be key and it went the way of the Chiefs when a line-out jumper had his arm taken out, which led to Cruden reducing the lead to nine points. This after images showed the Chiefs coaching staff laying down the law to their men in the dressing room.
Lealiifano would respond two minutes later though to make it 25-13 after strong carrying from Tevita Kuridrani but then came the brilliant and poor from Speight as another excellent break preceded him being sent to the sin-bin for going off his feet soon after. It would be a costly ten minutes.
Two tries were chalked up by the Chiefs in that spell as first Tawera Kerr-Barlow sniped over for a controversial score from close-range - it seemed Liam Messam cleared the space for his scrum-half - before Cruden and Michael Fitzgerald combined to send over Nanai-Williams for the levelling score.
Speight would see his side land three points immediately after Cruden's missed conversion, however, when Messam crawled after being held in contact before he returned to cheers from the vocal home crowd. That came as no surprise though as he was definitely the star, not the villain of the piece.