Australia’s Super Rugby season is over with the Brumbies suffering a 19-point defeat to the Hurricanes during their quarter-final in Canberra.
Any pre-game concerns about a lopsided contest were put to bed by a committed start from the home side. They were patient in attack, keeping the ball in hand, and were eventually rewarded with a try to James Dargaville.
Wharenui Hawera held it up before spreading to Andrew Smith who did the same for Dargaville to stroll over untouched, outflanking the packed Canes defence.
Celebrations were short-lived, however, as Wes Goosen danced through moments later for the visitors. Ricky Riccitelli threw a deep line out straight to the winger whose left-foot step left three Brumbies defenders strewn in his wake.
The Brumbies had a slight edge at scrum time, but it was their maul that gave the Hurricanes the biggest headache. It was their go-to play from attacking lineouts and Josh Mann-Rea was the beneficiary in the 16th minute, albeit after several TMO replays to spot the grounding.
The Hurricanes clung on, despite a dearth of possession in the opening 40 and a stroke of luck saw them right back in the contest. Close to the line, TJ Perenara spun a wicked pass straight into the head of prop Ben May which looped over the defence for the alert Jordie Barrett to pounce.
It was 16-15 to the Brumbies at half-time.
The impressive Dargaville was substituted for Christian Lealiifano at the break, giving the home side a spiritual lift, but left them without their most potent attacking threat.
It was a very different story in the second half, with the Brumbies almost permanently pinned inside their own 22. This was despite the temporary absence of Jeff Toomaga-Allen who saw yellow for inadvertent high contact on Hawera.
The precision and purpose the Brumbies showed in the opening 40 was systematically smothered by the reinvigorated Hurricanes.
The home side struggled to get any kind of momentum, rushing clearance kicks into touch with any scraps of possession they could find. The Canberrans toiled manfully, resisting wave after wave of attack but the pressure eventually told.
Consecutive Jordie Barrett penalty goals edged the Kiwis ahead. And it was the Hurricanes own returning hero who broke the game open. Hooker Dane Coles, returning from four months off due to concussion, dummied and stepped through a tiring defensive line, before laying on a simple pass for Perenara to score.
Any remaining Brumbies spirit was broken at that point and Goosen iced the cake when he crossed for his second try in the 76th minute. Ardie Savea and Ngani Laumape ran with purpose for the entire 80 minutes, but it took a concerted team effort for the Canes to put away a resolute Brumbies side.
Coach Stephen Larkham will rue a second-half in which the Brumbies kicked away the bulk of their rare scraps of possession.
Hawera was perhaps the main culprit with multiple aimless grubbers in attack. It was a much improved performance from the home side, however, headlined by strong performances from Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, and Dargaville. Ultimately, justice was done for the Hurricanes vastly superior season.
The Hurricanes live on, with a likely trip to South Africa next week.
The Brumbies exit, meanwhile, puts the Australian conference out of its misery in what has been a sorry Super Rugby campaign. That makes it 0-26 for Aussies vs Kiwis in 2017. With any luck they’ll be tired of winning by the time the Rugby Championship rolls around.
Brumbies 16 (Dargaville, Mann-Rea tries, Hawera 2 pen goals)
Hurricanes 35 (Goosen 2, J. Barrett, Perenara tries, J. Barrett 3 conv, 3 pen goals)