Brumbies beat Hurricanes 35-25 in the final Super Rugby Pacific quarter-final of 2022 at GIO Stadium, Canberra.
The Brumbies scored 20 unanswered second-half points to overturn a 10-point halftime deficit and upset the fancied Hurricanes in Australia’s capital.
This was a brave performance by the Aussies, especially after the way the last month has been going.
The two-time Super Rugby champions lost their last three games of the regular season and twice had to dig deep to overturn a two-score deficit.
The Hurricanes led 22-15 at the break as both teams scored twice.
However, the Brumbies outscored the New Zealand outfit 20-3 in the second stanza to seal another Super Rugby semi-final.
Folau Fainga’a, Irae Simone, in the first stanza, and Tom Banks and Tom Wright, after the break, crossed for the Brumbies, who staged a magnificent last-quarter comeback.
Noah Lolesio kicked three penalties and two conversions (13 pts), while Nic White added one conversion when Lolesio was off the field in concussion protocol.
This was a strange Super Rugby match. The weather was horrible, but the first scrum came three minutes before the interval. There were only five throughout the trans-Tasman clash.
Both teams played for 20 minutes with 14 players, but the hosts dealt with the issue better than the visitors.
Referee Paul Williams showed Len Ikitau a red card and Owen Franks and Salesi Rayasi both received yellows.
Dan McKellar’s side, however, scored 12 points while Ikitau was off. Jason Holland’s side, on the other hand, only scored three with Franks off during the red card period.
The Brumbies clinched the game when Rayasi went off, scoring seven points to make it a two-score game with less than five to play.
Josh Moorby – who had scored five tries and has two assists in his last four games (including two tries and an assist in the final regular-season round of the 2022 campaign) – bagged a second consecutive brace.
Jordie Barrett, although missing two conversions and one penalty, landed five shots at goal (15 pts) to go with his assist for Moorby’s first try.
But the tourists could only muster three second-half points, wilting as the hosts turned on the intensity.
The Hurricanes took a slender two-point lead into the shed thanks to Jordie Barrett’s boot and Josh Moorby’s nose for the whitewash
Barrett sandwiched Lolesio’s eighth-minute penalty with two of his own as the Kiwis lead 6-3 after 11 minutes.
The visitors struck in the 16th-minute when an 18-phase attack ended with Moorby collecting Barrett’s pin-point crossfield kick and diving over untouched.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when Ikitau hit Barrett with a high shot to the ball-carrier’s head and neck, and the centre was sent off.
But Franks went to the bin when he hit Lolesio high and off-the-ball, two minutes later.
The yellow card sparked the Brumbies into life. They scored twice – both directly and indirectly from driving mauls – in the space of six minutes.
The Australians have the best driving maul in the competition, scoring 37 times from the lineout, and they did so two more times.
The ACT side finally got their maul going, but only after the backs got involved to drive their forwards over the chalk. Fainga’a – who else? – claimed his 34th Super Rugby try.
White, taking over kicking duties while Lolesio went for an HIA, missed the conversion attempt when his kick hit the post.
The Hurricanes illegally brought down the rolling maul. Several phases later, Simone cut inside Barrett and slipped the centre’s tackle to give the home team the lead after White’s conversion made it 15-14.
Allan Alaalatoa was caught off his feet after tackling Rayasi, and Barrett put his side back in front from distance.
Despite the cold and wet conditions, the first scrum of the game came in the 37th-minute.
The Canes went quickly from the scrum free-kick. Billy Proctor’s deft pass to Moorby, whose well-timed run broke the line, saw the fullback run away to slide over untouched in the corner.
Barrett could not convert, but the Wellington side had a 22-15 halftime lead.
The weather got worse as the players struggled with handling and their discipline after the break
McKellar’s men navigated their red card well, scoring 12 points to six in trying conditions.
Barrett slotted another long-range penalty, two minutes after the restart, to open up a 10-point lead.
Lolesio reduced the gap back to one score with his second penalty soon afterwards.
Barrett hit the post in the 55th-minute to keep the hosts within a score, he left the field moments later for an HIA.
Instead of going to the corner, Alaalatoa opted for the points.
Lolesio could not miss from in front, cutting the gap to four, on the hour.
The Brumbies increase the tempo and turn pressure into points to close out the win with two late scores
A strong run from Nick Frost got the Brumbies in striking distance. The ball was recycled quickly to Banks to put the home team ahead.
Lolesio kicked his first conversion to make it 28-25 with less than 14 to play. The young standoff missed an easy shot at goal three minutes later.
By now, the Canberra men were on top of their Wellington counterparts. A late yellow card did for the Kiwis, who folded after going down to 14 men.
Rayasi played the ball off his feet and was off for the rest of the game. Banks went to the corner, and Barrett returned to the field.
The Canes collapsed the maul, and the Brumbies stayed patient, before sending Wright away through Proctor.
Lolesio’s touchline conversion opened a two-score lead with five minutes remaining.
Despite a late surge by the New Zealanders, the Australians held on for a famous victory.
Final Score: Brumbies 35 (15) Hurricanes 25 (22)
Tries – Fainga’a, Simone, Banks, Wright
Pen – Lolesio (3)
Con – White, Lolesio (2)
Cards – Ikitau (Red, 23′)
Tries – Moorby (2)
Pen – J. Barrett (5)
Cards – Franks (Yellow, 25′), Rayasi (Yellow, 73′)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Mike Winter
TMO: Richard Kelly
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Tom Wright, 13 Len Ikitau, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Noah Lolesio, 9 Nic White, 8 Pete Samu, 7 Luke Reimer, 6 Tom Hooper, 5 Caderyn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Rory Scott, 21 Jahrome Brown, 22 Ryan Lonergan, 23 Ollie Sapsford.
Hurricanes: 15 Josh Moorby, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Billy Proctor, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Aidan Morgan, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Ardie Savea (captain), 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Blake Gibson, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tevita Mafileo.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Pouri Rakete-Stones, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Caleb Delany, 20 Brayden Iose, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ruben Love, 23 Wes Goosen.