The Brumbies have gone agonisingly close to leaving New Zealand with 2 competition points after going down to the Chiefs at the death 29-22.
The game was headed for a draw until an error saw the home side with attacking ball inside the final minutes and the patience shown by the home side was the difference in the end.
The Chiefs showed their hand early by spreading the ball wide and attempting to use their main strike weapon of Sonny Bill Williams
The Brumbies opened the scoring with a Christian Lealiifano penalty from 40 metres out to give the new look side some confidence and settle the nerves.
The Chiefs then started get front foot ball and enjoyed the majority of territory early but handling errors were beginning to let them down. But they responded with an Aaron Cruden penalty after 10 mins to level at 3-3.
The game went end to end and The Brumbies had a a great attacking chance inside the Chiefs 22 metre area but lost the ball forward.
Sonny Bill Williams was beginning to create havoc with his strength and attracted many defenders whenever he got his hands on the ball and the pressure saw Cruden add another penalty after a breakdown infringement for a 6-3 lead.
The visitors then had their fair share of ball in the Chiefs 22 and pressured the home side into a penalty but Lealiifano’s attempt hit the post. The resulting scrum after a Chiefs knock on saw the Brumbies enjoy a period of attacking play that the Chiefs did well to hold out and a penalty in front of the sticks was converted by Lealiifano to make it 6-6.
The Chiefs then went on the front foot and after another breakdown infringement-a recurring theme on the night- saw Cruden add another 3 points to put his side in front 9-6.
Brumbies flanker Scott Fardy, who was making his starting debut, then nearly put his side in front but dropped the ball as he was about to ground it after a good build up from the Brumbies forwards.
Handling errors were hurting both sides, and Christian Lealiifano knocked on in a good attacking position after doing the hard work to make the break. But from the scrum the Brumbies received a free kick on the Chiefs feed and took the option of another scrum and received a penalty in front that Lealiifano converted to make it 9-9 and would remain that way as the headed for oranges.
The forwards battle continued in the second half and the Chiefs were penalised again for not rolling away and Lealiifano converted to put the Brumbies in front again 12-9.
The Chiefs then responded with an attacking play of their own that used the full width of the field and were unlucky not to score a try after another breakdown infringement. Cruden took the 3 points on offer to level once again.
A scrum penalty from the Brumbies from Ben Alexander allowed Cruden the chance to take the lead, and his attempt was good as the lead changed hands again.
The Brumbies used their forwards to their advantage and a strong rolling maul sequence saw the Chiefs infringe 3 times in the one go, leading to Ian Smith to issue a warning about the constant infringing. Lealiifano’s 5th penalty of the night leveled the scores once again and the Brumbies sent on substitutions for the remaining 15 minutes.
The tit for tat play continued and the Chiefs had the advantage with a penalty inside the Brumbies 22 and instead of taking the shot at goal, they kicked for touch and go for a possible win through their forwards.
That decision almost paid off as they were held up over the line, but that pressure proved too much and the first try of the match was scored from the huge prop Sona Taumololo under the sticks. Cruden added the conversion to make the margin 7 heading into the last 10 minutes.
The Brumbies could have been content with the close loss but they rolled the dice towards the end and were rewarded when replacement lock Sam Carter got a 5 pointer via the TMO. Lealiifano stepped up and landed the pressure conversion to give the crowd a grandstand finish as the scores leveled at 22-22.
As time wound down, a mistake from Brumbies reserve Nic White gave the Chiefs the advantage with the ball in the Brumbies half. With only a minute remaining, the Chiefs forwards rumbled forward and the ball went wide to Jackson Willison who dived over in the corner to give the home side victory.
Despite the loss the Brumbies can take a lot from this match and have proven to many observers that they won’t be the easy beats that many had predicted they would be.
Chiefs 29 Willison, Taumalolo tries, Cruden 2 cons, 5 pens
Brumbies 22 Carter try, Lealiifano con, 5 pens