The Brumbies edged the Western Force 29-23 in an entertaining but error-strewn Super Rugby Pacific clash at GIO Stadium, Canberra.
The Brumbies continued their dominance over the Western Force with a record 13th Super Rugby win in a row against the Perth-based franchise – the most by any club versus another in tournament history.
When Jake McIntyre scored and converted in the 77th-minute to put the Force 23-22 ahead.
Tim Sampson must have though his charges had an upset road win to start their Super Rugby campaign.
It was not to be though, because it took the Brumbies just 59 seconds to regain possession and march down the field to claim the six-point victory.
Andy Muirhead, Folau Fainga’a, Rory Scott and Lachlan Lonergan all scored for the Australian Capital Territory side.
Noah Lolesio had another good day from the kicking tee.
He kicked a penalty and three conversions (nine points), and set up Muirhead’s 19th-minute try. The 22-year-old standoff also had a hand in Lonergan’s score.
Ian Prior kicked three penalties and converted Toni Pulu’s early secondhalf try for 11 points, while McIntyre came off the bench to score what seemed to be the match-winning goal.
However, there was a final twist. The Brumbies gathered the kickoff, and found space on the right-hand sideline for Lonergan to win the game.
The Brumbies led 10-9 at the interval after scoring the half’s only try
The Brumbies took a slender one-point lead into the shed after a slow, disjointed first half.
Muirhead’s converted try and a Lolesio penalty edged Dan McKeller’s side ahead despite three penalties from the boot of Prior.
The Brumbies’ setpiece was a mess, they coughed up multiple scrum penalties, turned over possession at the lineouts.
McKeller’s men could not hang onto the ball in dry conditions, and the visitors made them pay.
Things could have been worse for the home team, because twice the Force got over the try line, but were held up by some stubborn defence.
Prior opened the scoring on 15 minutes, but Muirhead danced over the whiteswash four minutes later.
Lolesio put the winger away in the corner after a wrap-around with Len Ikitau; the standoff added the extras.
Tim Anstee got held up before Fainga’a’s mistake saw Prior knock over another goal.
The first half saw the visitors dominate territory and possession, sometyimes as much as 70%, but mistakes kept Sampson’s men out of the in-goal.
A scrum penalty on the stroke of halftime gave the Brumbies a four-point lead. Muirhead’s knock-on from the restart led to another scrum penalty going against the hosts.
Prior duly knocked it over to make it 10-9 at the break.
A fast start to the second half saw both teams score converted tries as the game opened up
Pulu dotted down three minutes after the restart before Fainga’a barged over from a trypical Brumbies’ driving maul.
Manasa Mataele broke from inside his half, he raced to the opposition’s half before combining with Richard Kahui.
The ball was recycled to the right where Kahui, involved again, sent Pulu away. Stunning.
Next it was Super Rugby try number 30 for Fainga’a – who always gets his five-pointer.
Both tries were converted to keep the margin at one point in favour of the hosts.
Just before the hour mark, the Brumbies kicked a penalty to the corner instead of taking the points. Their maul was working again, and they fancied another drive on the opposition’s try line.
It was the right call from the Canberra men, who bulldozed the Perth team’s forwards for a second driving maul score.
This time, Scott got up with the ball. Lolesio could not convert, but the hosts led 22-16 going into the final quarter.
The two-time Super Rugby champions looked for the killer blow. They opted for another lineout after Scott could not get over for the fourth score, but their scrum let them down.
The Force had their chances late in the game, but intead of taking the points, they opted for an attacking lineout.
Unfortunately for the Western Australian side, their lineout failed, which gave the hosts some respite.
Thrilling end to a topsy-turvy Australian opening day derby sees Brumbies break Western Force’s resolve
It did not matter, however, when McIntyre scored next to the posts with less than four minutes to play.
The visitors put together one of their best attacking phases of the contest, pushing and pulling the tired defenders before Fergus Lee-Warner’s sublime offload to McIntyre stunned the home crowd.
The 27year-old playmaker converted his score to put his team ahead.
With time ticking down, it looked as if the replacement’s goal would earn the Force an historic second opening day Super Rugby win.
It was not, however, the end of the drama as the home team fought back.
Some wonderful slick handling between backs and forwards saw Scott Sio and Pete Samu combine with Tom Wright to send Lonergan away for the final dagger.
Lolesio added the extars. What an end.
Final Score: Brumbies 29 (10) Force 23 (9)
Tries – Muirhead, Fainga’a, Scott, L. Lonergan
Pen – Lolesio
Con – Lolesio (3)
Tries – Pulu, McIntyre
Pen – Prior (3)
Con – Prior, McIntyre
Referee: Jordan way
Assistant Ref 1: Damon Murphy
Assistant Ref 2: Reuben Keane
TMO: James Leckie
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 Rory Scott, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Darcy Swain, 3 Allan Alaalatoa (captain), 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 Lachlan Lonergan, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Tom Ross, 19 Nick Frost, 20 Ed Kennedy, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Ollie Sapsford, 23 Jesse Mogg
15 Jake Strachan, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bayley Kuenzle, 11 Manasa Mataele, 10 Reesjan Pasitoa, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Tim Anstee, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Izack Rodda, 4 Fergus Lee-Warner, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Feleti Kaitu’u (captain), 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Harrison Lloyd, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Ryan McCauley, 20 Ollie Callan, 21 Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Richard Kahui