The Brumbies’ season is over, after an epic 15-9 quarter-final loss to the Highlanders
It took until after full-time for the result to be decided, after almost seven minutes of scrums just short of the Brumbies line leading into the full-time hooter.
In a rollercoaster final seven minutes, the Brumbies were denied a try to replacement winger Lausii Taliauli trailing by six points but awarded a penalty deep in attack.
A final stanza saw the Brumbies packed down scrum after scrum, with a brief running interlude, in a bid to keep their season alive.
A frantic passage after the final hooter kept a hardy 8,559 at Canberra Stadium on the edge of their seats, until it looked like the Highlanders had stolen possession, but the Brumbies returned the favour.
Their hopes were eventually snuffed out after the ball went into touch five minutes after the 80 ticked over, ending Australia’s Super Rugby title hopes.
The weather didn’t stop the Highlanders from throwing the ball around in general play early , with a try-saving tackle from Robbie Coleman stopping Patrick Osborne from scoring in the third minute.
While they kept the Highlanders off the line, the Brumbies conceded a penalty in front of the sticks, giving Lima Sopoaga the opening points of the match in the fifth minute.
The Brumbies gave themselves a solid chance at points out of a hugely dominant scrum, earning the first two penalties from the set piece of the night, though flyhalf Christian Lealiifano could only convert one.
An attacking charge from the Brumbies ended in a Highlanders offside penalty, giving Lealiifano the chance to put them in front for the first time in the 18th minute.
From there the first half descended into the ultimate grind, with the Brumbies showing they’d showed they had learned from a 23-10 loss in April in a defensive stranglehold.
After two failed Highlanders chances the Brumbies wall eventually caved, with an overlap giving winger Waisake Naholo the opening five-pointer in the 37th minute and the pain was compounded by a Matt Toomua yellow card.
It was the perfect start to the second half for the Brumbies, a penalty coming in the 42nd minute, but Lealiifano hit the post with his attempt, though they managed to get through Toomua’s binning without conceding a score.
A blistering break to Highlanders outside centre Matt Faddes, off an intercept, was fizzed out but the next chain of phases gave number eight Liam Squire their second try of the night in the 57th minute.
An injury in the 54th minute to Highlanders replacement prop Siosiua Halanukonuka threw the Kiwis scrum out again.
The Highlanders will not find out their next destination until Sunday morning, when the results of both South African quarter-finals are decided and would need all the conference winners to lose their quarter-finals for a chance to host a semi-final.
They head to Sydney on Saturday and will either travel to South Africa for a semi-final against the Lions or host their own final four clash.
(Tries: Cons: Pens:Lealiifano 3 )
(Tries: Naholo, Squire Cons: Sopoaga Pens: Sopoaga)