The Roar
The Roar


Brumbies end 15-year drought against Crusaders as 80th minute penalty try seals remarkable finish

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18th May, 2024
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The ACT Brumbies have ended a 15-year winless drought against the Crusaders, winning a nail-biter 31-24 after a penalty try was awarded to the home side in the final minute of the match.

With seconds left, Noah Lolesio’s match-winning penalty attempt from out wide hit the post and went into the Crusaders’ try zone, before lock Quinten Strange batted the ball dead in goal when under pressure from Harrison Goddard.

New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe then had little choice but to send Strange to the sin bin, explaining “You can’t do that in rugby union, so it’s a yellow card and penalty try”.

With two seconds in regular time remaining, it left the Brumbies only needing to win the kick-off. They might not have touched the ball first but Rob Valetini came away with it and the game was done.

“I was nervous,” Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa said.

“We knew coming into this game that the game would go down to the wire, especially against a quality Crusaders side.

“We were a little bit lucky towards the end. Throughout the game we weren’t clinical enough, some tough lessons, but good to get the win.”


Tom Wright and Len Ikitau celebrate their late win over the Crusaders at GIO Stadium in Canberra on May 18, 2024,. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Crusaders captain Codie Taylor, who returned last week after missing the opening ten matches, lamented his side’s slow start where they trailed 12-0 after 14 minutes.

“We gave ourselves a crack,” he said.

“First half, we created a lot of opportunities, we probably just let ourselves down with individual errors across the board, myself included, and it cost us.

“We let in 12 points, pretty easy tries on turnover attack and it’s not good enough, but it was a tough way to finish.”

Brumbies back-rower Rob Valetini was superb for the home side, scoring a try and providing the physicality needed to scrape over the line.


The reigning John Eales Medallist’s breakdown brilliant breakdown steal late in the first half also denied the Crusaders the chance to take the lead, before the Brumbies turned it on as Tom Wright finished off a stunning counter-attacking try to give the home side a 17-7 lead at the main break.

Fullback Wright was also magnificent.

The Wallabies outside back scored two stunning tries in the first half, but it was hit decision to run the ball back from inside 22 metre line that proved match defining.

Under a world of pressure after the Crusaders turned the heat on the Brumbies’ set-piece, Wright shaped to kick before beating Sevu Reece and Johnny McNicholl. The marvellous play from the fullback took play up to halfway in the 78th minute, before getting away with what looked like a forward pass back in field.

Had it been deemed a forward pass, the Crusaders would have fancied themselves to scrummaging for a penalty – and potentially, a match-winning one.

In the end, the Brumbies turned the Crusaders’ around and then managed to win a penalty soon after from their territory and pressure.


By winning, the Brumbies claimed their first victory over the Crusaders since 2009 to move back into the top three on 43 points and keep the pressure on the ladder-leading Blues and Hurricanes. The seven-point win also came 20 years after the Brumbies beat the Crusaders to win their second – and most recent – Super Rugby title.

Crusaders flyer Reece said he was “gutted” by the result and it “summarises our season as well”, with the seven-time back-to-back champions needing to win their final two matches and hope results go their way to somehow scrape into the top eight finals series.

After a tight opening ten minutes, the Brumbies turned it on by scoring twice in as many minutes.

After the Brumbies kept it tight, Noah Lolesio’s pin-point cross-field kick saw Andy Muirhead score untouched out wide.

Then some brilliant counter-attacking rugby from a spilt high ball in the wind saw the Brumbies put it through the hands as Wright stormed down the left-hand touchline to score.

The Crusaders then woke up, turning the pressure on the home side’s scrum as James Slipper felt the heat from Fletcher Newell.


Under pressure on their goal line, in-form centre Tamati Tua infringed with a sloppy high tackle, which saw O’Keeffe produce a yellow card.

While the Crusaders couldn’t instantly turn pressure into points, McNicholl eventually scored to hit back at the half-hour mark.

But some more pressure from the Brumbies in defence saw the Crusaders turn over possession and Ollie Sapsford allowed Lolesio to break centre field.

With Taylor chasing hard, Lolesio kicked ahead and Nick Frost booted the ball forward and it sat up perfectly for Wright to score a timely second try.

Some poor defence around the ruck allowed Seve Reece to run around Ryan Lonergan and score.

A superb carry from Valetini however put the Brumbies back on the front foot and seconds later the powerful back-rower barged his way over to score.

Rob Valetini scored a crucial second-half try against the Crusaders at GIO Stadium on May 18, 2024. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)


Wanting to put away the Crusaders once and for all, the Brumbies turned down a shot at goals.

It looked like biting them in the backside as Noah Hotham scored soon after, before Chay Finaki banged a penalty from past halfway to level up the score.

But Wright’s decision to run the ball back – an aspect of his game that has regularly backfired – proved match-turning, with the Brumbies sealing a late win in the most remarkable circumstances.

“We were straight away looking for a yellow card, so we were trying to get the message down to Darc [acting captain Darcy Swain] to get to the referee,” Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham said.

“Straight after that, as soon it was a yellow card, we could see on the scoreboard it said 80 minutes and three seconds, so we were trying to find out if there was a kick-off or not. There were a few swear words down the microphone about getting the boys back onside and being flat enough from the kick off, so they didn’t get the ball back.”