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REACTION: 'Out played, out enthused' - Brumbies stumble into finals after Moana Pasifika shocker

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28th May, 2022
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Moana Pasifika saved their best until last, shocking the Brumbies 32-22 despite a red card to Sekope Kepu, leaving Australia’s best team in fourth place leading into the quarterfinals and needing a huge turnaround to make an impact from here.

While the Brumbies will still have a home match next Saturday, the defeat meant they failed to leap over the Chiefs into third. The make up of both teams quarters will be decided later Saturday when the Waratahs (6th) play Blues and Hurricanes (5th) play Force.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar had his head in hands as Moana sealed the deal with a 76th minute try after a moment of magic from former Brumby Christian Leali’ifano.

McKellar had talked up the importance of momentum, but his team goes into the final after three straight defeats – to the Crusaders, Blues and Moana Pasifika, enjoying only their second win of the season.

“The boys are extremely disappointed as well we should be,” said Brumbies captain Allan Alaalatoa.

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“We were probably outplayed tonight, probably out-enthused. Some great learnings for us but the bright side is we get another opportunity next week in the finals. We need to regroup, stay connected and make sure we learn from tonight.”

He said the Brumbies were off their game all night and couldn’t match the Moana intensity.

“They have strong ball carriers and they dominated the collisions tonight. The disappointing thing is they took us at our own game, scored a couple more tries. You can’t take it away from Moana, the passion they showed tonight.”

Kepu looked crushed when he received the red card after just 10 minutes, having swung a high arm into the chin of Brumbies winger Andy Muirhead. Before the game the former Wallabies prop had been presented to the crowd with his three children in tow to celebrate 150 games and led the pre-match challenge, and as he slowly trudged off just 10 minutes into the contest Muirhead came over to shake his hand.

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Less than two minutes later the Brumbies scored the first try, with Connal McInerney crossing and you began to wonder how massive the Brumbies rout might be.

But Moana Pasifika dug deep and found levels they haven’t managed in their 13 previous games. Ten minutes into their 20-minute stretch with 14 men, a run of penalty advantage ended with a tap close to the Brumbies posts. No. 9 Jonathan Taumateine swung a long pass to the left and fullback William Havili had a simple touch down.

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A penalty try just before halftime resulted in Jahrome Brown getting a yellow card to join McInerney on the naughty chair and MP went into the sheds leading 19-7 and having had an astonishing 71 percent possession in the first half.

Brumbies assistant coach Laurie Fisher was succinct in a halftime interview.

“I don’t think we won a collision since Scotty Sio ran over Christian Leali’ifano in the second minute of the game – so that was 38 minutes on the back foot.

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“Down to 13 we’ve got to man up, win a few collisions and give ourselves an opportunity to play.”

The Brumbies were slightly improved after the break – they could hardly have played worse.

Noah Lolesio potted a rare drop goal for a team beaten by Beauden Barrett’s poacher’s effort a week earlier – and Lachie Lonergan crossed from Brumbies most potent weapon, a rolling maul from a lineout post-penalty.

Two penalties from former Brumby Leali’ifano kept Moana eight points in advance.

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With 15 minutes left the Brumbies had the hosts on the rack but a dropped ball left MP off. Then Ryan Lonergan tried a quick tap off a penalty when in front of the posts, decising against another rolling mal lineout for reasons only he will know.

Still the Brumbies came at the desperate defenders and won another penalty. Muirhead tried a quick tap but was called back and the Brumbies went to the side. Another moment of sloppiness saw Moana poach it and Leali’ifano thumped an astonishing 50-22 down the right hand touch line.

If the Brumbies hadn’t received the message before that, it was the last sign that it wasn’t going to be the Australians’ night.

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