23 vs 48
The Chiefs ran six tries past the Brumbies in a brilliant performance on Saturday in Canberra, winning 48-23.
Three tries from the Chiefs in the first half were full of endeavour, but those scores were outdone by outstanding efforts for James Lowe and Brad Weber, which sealed a big win over the Australian Conference leaders before Damien McKenzie went over late on.
A battle between Brumbies power and the flair of the Chiefs, the visitors shrugged off their exhausting recent travel schedule to produce the kind of performance worthy of future champions.
Lethal on the counter, the sight of Charlie Ngatai, Lowe and especially McKenzie – potentially all involved with New Zealand later this year – is a joy to watch.
The Chiefs completely dominated the breakdown and through the boot of McKenzie kept the scoreboard ticking over, and thanks to this bonus point win move back to the top of the Australasian Group ahead of the Highlanders.
Two quick penalties from Christian Lealiifano set the Brumbies on their way before one of those now trademark counter-attacks from the Chiefs produced the game’s first try.
Turnover ball allowed Ngatai to put away Toni Pulu in a footrace down the touchline, scoring to make it 6-5 as McKenzie missed the wide conversion.
Doing their best to control the Chiefs at the breakdown through Scott Fardy and David Pocock, the Brumbies continued to be ripped open by McKenzie, and more excellent handling led to the Chiefs’ first try.
Drawing in defenders with the ball in two hands, Lowe’s footwork kept the Brumbies guessing as he exchanged passes with Cruden before stepping on the gas to go through a gap left by Pocock and Lealiifano to score, McKenzie adding the conversion.
Needing a response the Brumbies turned to the power of Scott Sio, the impressive Wallaby prop unstoppable from close range as Lealiifano converted to swing the lead back the Brumbies way at 13-12.
The Brumbies must have thought they would hold the lead at half-time but the Chiefs had other ideas, Ngatai starting a length-of-the-field attack as he sped past Tomás Cubelli before the Chiefs recycled, Aaron Cruden’s looping pass finding Tom Sanders out wide for a super try, and a 20-13 half-time lead.
Momentum continued to go the way of the Chiefs thanks to two penalties from McKenzie after the break.
Finally the Brumbies hit back after kicking to the corner, but instead of rolling a trademark maul they attacked wide off first phase, Fardy reaching out a long arm to find the line with Lealiifano converting to make it 20-26.
The Chiefs continued to force penalties out of the Brumbies at the ruck and this time Fardy infringed, McKenzie adding his fourth penalty to extend the gap to nine points.
Pulu escaped a yellow card for a late hit on Robbie Coleman after his kick ahead, Lealiifano landing the resulting penalty, before the Chiefs hit back with a moment of genius.
Under pressure in the scrum, Weber’s quick change of direction and then a beautiful chip kick to the corner from Cruden handed Lowe his second try of the game, and fifth of the season, in sublime style.
Brad Weber was the next to join the party after another long-range counter-attack starting from a Lowe chip kick, the winger flying up the touchline before McKenzie put away his sprinting scrum-half.
Looking for a final score the Chiefs were initially held up over the line before McKenzie hammered the final nail into the coffin with his seventh try of the season – wrapping up one special performance in the Australian capital by Dave Rennie’s men.
BRUMBIES – 23
Tries : Scott Sio (35) , Scott Fardy (53)
Penalties : Christian Lealiifano (5,8,61)
Drops : None
Cons : Christian Lealiifano (36), Matt Toomua (54)
CHIEFS – 48
Tries : Toni Pulu (14) , James Lowe (28,64) , Tom Sanders (39) , Brad Weber (66) , Damian McKenzie (79)
Penalties : Damian McKenzie (38,42,45,56)
Drops : None
Cons : Damian McKenzie (30,65,80)
Brumbies: 1 Scott Sio 2 Stephen Moore 3 Ben Alexander 4 Rory Arnold 5 Sam Carter 6 Scott Fardy 7 David Pocock 8 Ita Vaea 9 Tomas Cubelli 10 Christian Lealiifano 11 Joseph Tomane 12 Matt Toomua 13 Tevita Kuridrani 14 Robbie Coleman 15 Aidan Toua
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea 17 Allan Alaalatoa 18 Les Makin 19 Thomas Staniforth 20 Jordan Smiler 21 Joe Powell 22 James Dargaville 23 Nigel Ah Wong
Chiefs: 1 Mitchell Graham 2 Hikawera Elliot 3 Siate Tokolahi 4 Michael Allardice 5 Taleni Seu 6 Tom Sanders 7 Sam Cane 8 Michael Leitch 9 Brad Weber 10 Aaron Cruden 11 James Lowe 12 Charlie Ngatai 13 Anton Lienert-Brown 14 Toni Pulu 15 Damian McKenzie
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall 17 Atunaisa Moli 18 Siegfried Fisiihoi 19 James Tucker 20 Maama Vaipulu 21 Kayne Hammington 22 Seta Tamanivalu 23 Shaun Stevenson
Date: Saturday, April 2
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: William Houston, James Leckie
TMO: Ian Smith