What did we learn from the Brumbies' 15-9 loss to the Highlanders?
1. Try or no try?
The Brumbies looked like clinching one of the great knockout wins when replacement winger Lausii Taliauli barged over the line in the 73rd minute off the back of a scrum. The TMO review though showed no conclusive evidence of the ball touching down, despite much of Taliauli’s body going over the line. Brumbies co-captain Stephen Moore said after the game he thought it showed enough to be a score and the team’s reaction at the time indicated the same.They would’ve needed a conversion to actually clinch the victory but the tough decision will be one dissected for days to come. The Brumbies continued to fight through to the 85th minute before the heartbreaking conclusion came
2. Trans-Tasman dominance ends Australian chances
As well as ending any chance of an Australian team challenging for the Super Rugby title, the Brumbies’ quarter-final loss ends a lopsided season when it comes to the Australia-New Zealand rivalry. In all Australian sides won just three of their encounters against Kiwis this season, a stat that hangs over the 2016 Super Rugby year. No Australian side has managed a win across the ditch and the Brumbies’ round one thrashing of the Hurricanes remains their only trans-Tasman victory.
4. Defence, defence, defence
It was defence that cost them against the Highlanders in round 10 but the Brumbies wouldn’t let history repeat on Friday night. On the wrong end of an early 93-7 territory count the home side kept the Highlanders out for most of the first half, making 64 tackles to 17 in the opening 40 minutes. Ultimately the Highlanders pounced on an overlap and an intercept for their two tries of the match, but this could have all been over before the break if not for the Brumbies’ tenacity. It was a gritty effort from the Brumbies, who didn't leave their season to chance.
4. Brumbies take the scrum battle
The set piece battle is what the Brumbies love and they exerted their dominance early in the match. But it wasn’t in the lineout where they found most success, rather the scrum that heaped the pressure on their opponents. They had the first two scrum penalties of the match and deep in Highlanders territory another helped the Brumbies out of danger. It very nearly helped them to an unlikely win in the final few minutes.
5. Premiership window closed?
This was supposed to be the Brumbies’ year, not that sport ever really delivers the narrative you expect. Bowing out of the finals in the first week signalled a disappointing end for a handful of Brumbies stalwarts. The reflection might not come for a couple of days, the next question is what next year will be and whether they will have to start over with Stephen Moore, Matt Toomua, David Pocock and Joe Tomane all leaving Canberra in 2017.