The Brumbies showed fight but fell short of the Chiefs in Waikato, 28-10, giving New Zealand teams a 2017 clean sweep over Australian sides in the regular Super Rugby season.
There was no repeat of the Watratahs’ infamous 2002 thrashing at the hands of the Crusaders, though the reshuffled Brumbies were soundly beaten by the team they could meet in Canberra next week, also missing many of its stars.
They had eyes only for the corner in those opening stages, keen to take a risk with the ball in hand with nothing to lose having already secured a home quarter-final.
Both sides had trouble hanging on to the ball, the Brumbies with the majority of opportunities but those were slashed by handling errors.
It took a blistering James Lowe run for the Chiefs to find their first attacking position in the opening 13 minutes, but the Brumbies shut that down.
Where the Brumbies looked at the corner, Aaron Cruden opted for a shot at the posts to book-end the half, with Damian McKenzie slotting both three-pointers.
The Brumbies couldn’t stop the second Chiefs rampage, McKenzie finishing off a short lineout play from the home side, that exemplified their set piece danger.
Finally, the Brumbies were able to reply, with Nigel Ah Wong slipping through the Chiefs’ defence to open their tally.
It was the Brumbies’ younger brigade, who made up the majority of that largely revamped lineup, that provided the major positives for the Canberra side.
James Lowe broke open the Brumbies’ defence but a blatant forward pass in the lead up was ultimately picked up by the TMO.
A last-gaps penalty shot narrowed the margin to just three points at the break, and though it seemed the Brumbies were a barely-standing dam wall, a flood had yet to be triggered.
Tomas Cubelli’s marching orders gave the Brumbies a disastrous start to the second stanza and the Chiefs pounced almost immediately, through Solomona Alaimalo.
That was the only score the Brumbies conceded when they were a man down, but in a second-half arm wrestle, they were unable to close the gap either.
Hard-working Chiefs no. 8 Michael Leitch sealed the game with the Chiefs’ third in the 71st minute.
Whether Stephen Larkham’s selections pay off when next week’s sudden death section rolls around is yet to be seen, but a fighting showing in Waikato was far from morale-destroying, still denying the Chiefs a bonus point.
The result means the Brumbeis will likely meet the Chiefs in their Canberra quarter-final next Friday night, unless the Hurricanes can end the Crusaders' unbeaten run on Saturday night.
Tries: McKenzie, Alaimalo, Leitch
Cons: McKenzie 2
Pens: McKenzie 3
Tries: Ah Wong