Brumbies beat Chiefs 28-38 in an enthralling Trans-Tasman Super Rugby contest at FMG Stadium, Hamilton.
The Brumbies cemented their Super Rugby Pacific title credentials with an impressive 10-point victory in the Waikato.
Dan McKellar’s men stay in second place on the Super Rugby table behind Leon MacDonald’s Blues and ahead of Scott Robertson’s Crusaders.
Both Brumbies and Blues have only lost once this season in their 11 matches, and with the Crusaders, they are the teams to beat.
Both teams shared eight tries apiece in an absorbing contest, but the Hamilton side’s ill-discipline cost them the game.
Noah Lolesio punished the Chiefs with four goals, and his forwards rinsed their opponents with two tries from penalties that set up attacking lineouts.
The visitors scored twice from lineouts to increase their season-tally to 29 tries from the set-piece, the most by any team and it’s not close.
The total cost of the Chiefs’ discipline issues was 22 points, 11 points in each half.
Conversely, Clayton McMillan’s men only scored seven points from a series of late penalties when the game was long lost.
Nic White, Folau Fainga’a, Len Ikitau, and Billy Pollard scored for the visitors, while Lolesio had a good day from the tee.
The 22-year-old standoff kicked four penalties and three conversions for 18 points as he punished the opposition’s infringements.
Alex Nankivell, Cortez Ratima, Pita Gus Sowakula, and Naitoa Ah Kuoi all dotted down for the hosts.
Bryn Gatland and Kaleb Trask each kicked two conversions.
McKellar’s men have now beaten three New Zealand sides in a row after dispatching the Highlanders and Hurricanes in the previous fortnight.
This convincing win takes their recent record to four in five in Trans-Tasman clashes. The defeat also breaks the Chiefs’ three-game winning streak.
The Brumbies’ pack laid the foundations for a deserved halftime lead against the ill-disciplined Chiefs
The Chiefs conceded six to the Brumbies’ five penalties in the opening stanza.
The Australians took advantage, scoring a try and two goals for 11 points, while the New Zealanders scored no points from penalties.
The Brumbies took an early lead from a Chiefs’ mistake inside the home team’s 22.
Pistol Pete Samu, playing his 50th match for the capital side, went close after Luke Jacobson’s handling error allowed Rob Valetini to kickstart the counter-attack.
White, who was again superb, broke to the blindside of a touchline ruck to score untouched. The hosts hit back soon afterwards.
The Chiefs, who have made the most offloads in Super Rugby Pacific this season, benefitted from another to level the scores.
Quinn Tupaea’s strong run and carry set up the fortunate try.
Irae Simone chased back but he knocked Tupaea’s offload back over the Brumbies’ goalline for Nankivell to dot down.
Gatland levelled from next to the poles.
Moments later, Valetini charged down Gatland’s kick. He chased the bouncing ball before toeing it forward.
Valetini, however, lost the ball forward for a Chiefs’ 5m scrum, which in turn, led to a Brumbies’ penalty.
White opted for the lineout knowing his forwards’ destructive maul always delivers – and it did once again.
The Chiefs initially held the Brumbies at bay, but try machine Fainga’a broke off another well-timed rolling maul, and scored his 31st Super Rugby try.
Lolesio could not convert, but he did slot a long-range penalty after the restart to open a two-score lead.
McMillan’s men, however, pulled the gap to within one point minutes later.
A 14-phase attack involving most of the team ended with Gatland and Jacobson combining, with two neat runs and offloads, to send Ratima away.
Gatland converted to make it 14-15, but McMillan’s men kept giving away penalties.
Lolesio knocked over his second shot at goal on the half-hour to open up a four-point lead.
The half fizzled out as both teams struggled with the ball in hand.
Brumbies’ forwards continued to dominate the tight phases as their pack continued to hamper the Chiefs
McKellar’s men scored 10 points in 13 minutes after the restart to open up a 14-point, two-goal advantage.
The Brumbies won a turnover penalty, which Tom Banks booted to the 22 to set up an attacking lineout.
The forwards rumbled forward, going through the phases before Tom Wright’s deft pass sent Ikitau away.
Wright’s delicate run sucked in two defenders, which left lots of space on the wing for the outside centre to score.
Lolesio converted before knocking over a 53rd-minute penalty after Sam Cane did not release to make it 28-14.
With the hour mark fast approaching, the Chiefs won a series of penalties, which led to their third score.
Trask kicked to the corner, and easy as you like, Sowakula scored from a top-of-the-lineout move.
The try was easy, there were no defenders to stop the burly number eight as the Brumbies switched off.
Trask, taking over from Gatland, converted.
The momentum shifted to the Chiefs but the Brumbies’ forwards held firm to see out the win
The momentum had shifted in favour of the hosts, but they could not break the opposition’s defence.
Instead, the tourists regrouped. A couple of penalties allowed the Brumbies to pile on the pressure.
Lolesio took the easy points from in front of the posts to make it 31-21 with less than 13 minutes to play.
The game was as good as over when Pollard landed the knockout blow in the 72nd-minute.
It was vintage Valetini, whose well-timed run beat Tupou Vaa’i as he ghosted through a hole.
Valetini slipped Xavier Roe’s weak tackle and drew Ollie Sapsford before sending Pollard away untouched for the game-winner.
Lolesio added another two before Ah Kuoi crashed over in vain with seconds remaining.
Final Score: Chiefs 28 (14) Brumbies 38 (18)
Tries – Nankivell, Ratima, Sowakula, Ah Kuoi
Con – Gatland (2), Trask (2)
Tries – White, Fainga’a, Ikitau, Pollard
Pen – Lolesio (4)
Con – Lolesio (3)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 1: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 2: Angus Mabey
TMO: Glenn Newman
Chiefs: 15 Kaleb Trask, 14 Jonah Lowe, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Quinn Tupaea, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Cortez Ratima, 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Tupou Vaa’i, 4 Josh Lord, 3 Angus Ta’avao-Matau, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Ollie Norris, 18 Atu Moli, 19 Naitoa Ah Kuoi, 20 Samipeni Finau, 21 Xavier Roe, 22 Rameka Pohipi, 23 Emoni Narawa.
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Pete Samu, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Sefo Kautai, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Billy Pollard, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Tom Hooper, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Rory Scott, 23 Ollie Sapsford.