The Brumbies ran in three tries during their 24-10 win over the Force at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday.
The hosts looked a touch flat in front of a very modest crowd, with perhaps the knowledge that they just needed one point from the fixture to advance to the quarter-finals, which could have been playing on their – and their fans – minds.
It was a fairly subdued start to proceedings, with both teams being content to play for territory. Eventually, it was the Force who decided to have a go and take it through the phases just outside the Brumbies 22. Their efforts came to nothing though, as the Brumbies soaked up the pressure.
The Brumbies looked to be the first to score in the 16th minute, but Matt Toomua was deemed to be held up after a superb effort from Dane Haylett-Petty coming across on the cover defence.
However, the home side did get a penalty from the resulting scrum and Christian Leali'ifano popped it over for an easy three points.
But Toomua would get redemption, as he would score the first try of the match ten minutes later.
Rory Arnold sparked the attack on the halfway line for the Brumbies. The big lock looked majestic gliding through a gap on the wing. A couple of phases later and scrum-half Tomas Cubelli showed skill with a no-look flick out the back door to a flying Nigel Ah Wong, who went through the gap and popped it up to Aidan Toua, who shovelled the ball to the centre for the score.
But the Force hit back smartly, firstly via a penalty from the boot of scrum-half Ian Prior and then capitalising on a mistake from Toua.
The full-back tried to toe it through on the halfway line but a Force boot got in the way. Centre Ben Tapuai then snatched up the loose ball and ran in untouched. Prior slotted the kick to make it 10-all after 32 minutes.
Three minutes later and Tevita Kuridrani would get held up over the line after another sterling tackle from Haylett-Petty. But once again the Brumbies asserted their dominance at scrum time, earning a penalty try as a result.
The Force were denied a five-pointer after a speculative kick from Haylett-Petty was allowed to bounce by the Brumbies and ended up in the hands of Kyle Godwin, who powered over the line, but replays showed that he was just in-front of the kicker.
After the half-time siren, Kuridrani was eventually rewarded for his efforts as he smashed his way under the poles. A period of sustained attack for the home side lead to one defensive lapse, which was all the Brumbies needed. Toomua added a cheeky drop goal for the conversion to make it 24-10 as the players headed to the change rooms.
The scoreless second half started a lot like the first, with plenty of kicking and not much patience from both teams. Ten minutes in, the Brumbies worked their way into the Force half and earned a penalty on the 22, only to take a quick tap, which culminated in a player being bundled into touch just five metres later.
Then, after another good break from full-back Toua, Toomua went for the cross-field bomb, but his winger was a touch out of position, leading to a turnover.
The Force enjoyed a number of promising attacks, with Ryan Louwrens and that man Haylett-Petty impressing, but the Brumbies staunch defence would always be up for the challenge as they closed out the victory.
Tries: Toomua, Penalty Try, Kuridrani
Con: Leali'ifano, Toomua
Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Christian Lealiifano (cc), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Stephen Moore (cc), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Blake Enever, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 Lausii Taliauli
Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Marcel Brache, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Luke Morahan (c), 10 Jono Lance, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Rory Walton, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Guy Millar, 2 Harry Scoble, 1 Pek Cowan
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Ryan Louwrens, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Semisi Masirewa
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Ed Martin (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)