Chiefs outmuscle Brumbies, unearth star

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

The Chiefs have signalled a warning shot to the rest of Super Rugby and found a budding star in the process, beating the Brumbies 38-26 at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

The scoreline does the Brumbies plenty of justice, as they scored three tries at the death with the result beyond any doubt, after trailing 26-7 at half-time.

While the result will keep Chiefs coaches happy, they would have been far more pleased with the form of Solomon Alaimalo, who was simply unstoppable on the left wing.

The Chiefs' in 2017 rookie of the year, Alaimalo's blistering first half was packed with tackle busts, line breaks and try assists left a shell-shocked Brumbies unable to respond. Kyle Godwin and the Brumbies couldn't get past the Chiefs. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThis Brumbies performance was the kind one would come to expect in a trial - it was mighty rusty.

The carries from Isi Naisarani and Rob Valetini lacked their typical punch, the breakdown work left Joe Powell and later, Matt Lucas, fumbling around for clean ball and as a result, the attack never quite left first gear.

Tom Banks missed his fair share of tackles, Kyle Godwin was too loose through contact and both Henry Speight and Chance Peni struggled to make much of an impact on either wing.

Trial form should be taken with a considerable grain of salt but outside of the first 10 minutes and the final 10, there was little reason for Brumbies fans to smile.

The Chiefs used the opening exchanges to settle but once they did, there were lengths between the two sides.Christian Lealiifano impressed through 50 minutes of rugby. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Sturat WalmsleyFor ACT, Christian Lealiifano and Rory Arnold were the pair to make a significant impression.

Lealiifano received a warm ovation from the crowd with his first touch but it was the second one which brought the fans to their feet.

The star flyhalf put a perfectly weighted chip kick in the path of Speight from inside his own 22, the Fijian flyer collecting the loose ball just over halfway and scooting away for what looked a certain try, only to have a pass to Tom Banks 10 from the line knocked down by a persistent Brad Weber.

Joe Powell made amends from the ensuing scrum, cleaning up a Taleni Seu spill at the back of the pack and falling over the line for the first five-pointer of the night.

Lealiifano followed that with a try-saving tackle on Damian McKenzie in the 13th minute and controlled the game with aplomb through his 50 minutes but it was Weber's early presence that would prove to be the theme of the night.

The Chiefs halfback had a hat trick inside the first 25 minutes, reward for consistent support behind the Brumbies line.

Weber's name may have been the one on the scoresheet but New Zealand rugby may have unearthed its next star en route to Weber's triple treat, Alaimalo wreaking havoc down the left wing with every touch.

The 22-year-old proved near impossible for the Brumbies backline to bring down through his sheer speed and power.Brad Weber nabbed a first half hat trick. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyHe was directly responsible for Weber's first, splitting the line before he slipped an offload to the halfback, who ran 15 metres to cross untouched in the 15th minute.

Weber had a double three minutes later when both Brodie Retallick and Tim Nanai-Williams kept the ball alive through contact and found him in support.

It was Mitch Brown's turn to cross next as ACT were split down the left hand edge once again, Alaimalo again wreaking havoc in the lead up.

Only four more minutes passed before the Chiefs had their next, a sublime offload from Seu off the back of a scrum 10 out from the Brumbies line finding Weber for his hat trick.

That left a reeling Brumbies side a sizeable task, trailing 26-7 at the break.

They were given their chance to respond as the Chiefs pulled all of their starting backline outside of Weber and Alaimalo but a pair of early half breaks were quelled, Liam Messam crossing 12 minutes into the second term for his side's fifth.Wharenui Hawera made his impact known in the second half. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyWharenui Hawera's injection into the fray was a notable one, taking the reins from Lealiifano and immediately making a half break which set up the phases that put his side in the red zone, Andy Muirhead burrowing over two minutes later.

More substitutions followed for both sides and that favored the Brumbies, Isi Naisarani splitting the line from 50 out to score before Kyle Godwin set up a grandstand finish.

The comeback wasn't to be, though as Johnny Faauli scored to put the result beyond doubt once more.

Post-match, coach Dan McKellar preached positivity after an improved second term.

"I thought we showed real fight in the second half, which is pleasing," McKellar said.

"I thought the boys that came on were excellent and we just managed to get into the game and play the game the way we want to play it - with speed and with tempo.

"The first 40 minutes we were just a bit flat.

"We had some guys who had their first hitout in a long while in some trying conditions so they'll be better for the run - but I was really pleased with the second half."

RESULT

Brumbies 26

Tries: Powell, Muirhead, Naisarani, Godwin

Cons: Lealiifano, Hawera 2

Chiefs 38

Tries: Weber 3, Brown, Messam, Faauli

Cons: D McKenzie 3, M McKenzie

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