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The Chiefs have beaten the brave Brumbies 24–19 in Hamilton in a bizarre game that had periods of huge frustration as the error count rose and rose but then periods of incredible excitement as both sides battled hard for the win.
Ahead of the game there was a lot of talk about the momentum that the Brumbies were bringing into this game and how their great win over the Canes last week should be seen as a clear indication that they were a team that couldn’t be underestimated.
For about 60 minutes or so though the Brumbies were their own worst enemy. About 19 errors in the first half alone was understandably a big issue and the visitors found it hard to turn any sort of possession into genuine pressure.
At the same time the Chiefs were looking slick – they were able to handle what the Brumbies did throw at them with relative ease and then Damian McKenzie was in some great form and seemed eager to have a great night.
His pace has always been hard to deal with but this season he’s added some new qualities and better decision making as he’s taken on the full time No.10 role.
His try was a great example of his value to the team. The Chiefs had already scored once and had started a nice attack from deep inside their own half.
A nice offload from Sam Cane gave McKenzie some space and he screamed through a gap and into the Brumbies back field.
He was tackled but not only did the move keep on going, he then got himself up and chased down the play 20m ahead of him and got into position to take the key pass and score the try.
It was rugby at its simplest in many ways – always support the play – but it demonstrated how crucial McKenzie is as he creates and finishes for the Chiefs.
At half time the Chiefs were out to a 17-0 lead and the Brumbies really hadn’t fired a shot in anger.
Even though the Brumbies were able to score relatively early in the second half, they still looked a bit wayward and when the Chiefs turned a great attacking opportunity into an intercept, 80m run and eventual try, the game and the season looked all over for the Canberra side.
The key turning point was a rush of blood to the head for Jesse Parete in the 65th minute – he put in a late and high hit on Lucas as the No.9 passed away from a lineout and the ref’s decision to give the young Chief a yellow card was an easy one. It was totally unnecessary and almost cost his team the match.
The Brumbies came to life and scored two tries in this 10 minute period and got themselves right back into the game.
They needed just five points in the final minutes and a game that had been bumbling along to a predictable easy win for the Chiefs was suddenly all up for grabs.
Unfortunately the Brumbies just couldn’t close the game out and while they will feel aggrieved with a referee decision that gave possession to the Chiefs and the chance to end the game, the reality is that they left too much to do til too late.
Brumbies fans will be both pleased and so frustrated. In the past few weeks the Brumbies have shown real grit and talent and have demonstrated the type of rugby that had many experts predicting they would win the Aussie conference. Why have they left it so late many will be screaming!
The Chiefs got the win and that’s important but they would have wanted that to be an easier win for sure.
The good news is that key players are looking good – McKenzie, Charlie Ngatai, Cane and Brad Weber had good games and there is still the hugely important Brodie Retallick to come back.
The Chiefs play the Canes next week in what should be a great clash while the Brumbies could still have a say in the finals if they can upset the Tahs next week.