The Brumbies opened up their 2011 Super Rugby account with a hard-fought 28-20 victory over a hot-and-cold Chiefs outfit on Saturday.
The Brumbies opened up their Super Rugby account with a hard-fought 28-20 victory over a hot-and-cold Chiefs side in Canberra on Saturday.
Defeat will be tough to take for the Chiefs as they blew chances to score in the first-half, with Tim Nanai-Williams and Mils Muliaina the guilty men.
Had they gone over for their respective score, the Chiefs would have been in the ascendancy and looking at an away victory to kick-off their season. However, two fumbles with the try-line in sight cost them the points. A late try from Lelia Masaga did set up a chance to salvage a bonus-point but a post denied wing Nanai-Williams his moment.
Take nothing away from the Brumbies though, they were the better side during the opening stages as the visitors struggled for any sort of possession and/or territory in Australia.
Captained by soon-to-be departing fly-half Matt Giteau, the men from Canberra dominated matters early on and raced into an 18-0 lead in quick time. Their first try came from lively centre Robbie Coleman, who stood up well against veteran Tana Umaga in the midfield. The youngster's nimble feet proved key in his score as he found a mismatch in midfield and then showed poise to wrong-foot Muliaina.
The Chiefs were in trouble and desperately needed their set-piece to function so that their superior back-line (on paper) could get their hands on the ball. But Aled de Malmanche endured a difficult day with a second home try coming from Francis Fainifo on the left.
Giteau kept the scoreboard ticking over in a good showing at fly-half while opposite number Stephen Donald struggled to put his stamp on proceedings – his first real involvement being a 38th minute penalty that wrapped up that half at 18-3.
Following the interval came a glimmer of hope for the visitors when All Blacks winger Sitiveni Sivivatu got over the line and then replacement scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow showed his promise by chipping over the top, collecting and getting over under pressure.
The gap had narrowed to just six points and looked like only continuing in one direction. However just when the Brumbies needed one of their internationals to step up, it came from the unlikely source of Salesi Ma'afu, who broke Chiefs' hearts. Lelia Masaga's 80th minute try then set up that chance for a losing bonus-point but Nanai-Williams' luck was out.
Man-of-the-match: Not a bad Super Rugby debut. Robbie Coleman.
For the Brumbies:
Tries: Coleman, Fainifo, Ma'afu
Con: Giteau 2
Pen: Giteau 3
For the Chiefs:
Tries: Sivivatu, Kerr-Barlow, Masaga
Brumbies: 15 Pat McCabe, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Robbie Coleman, 11 Francis Fainifo, 10 Matt Giteau (c), 9 Josh Valentine, 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Mitch Chapman, 5 Mark Chisholm, 4 Ben Hand, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Huia Edmonds, 17 Salesi Ma'afu, 18 Stephen Hoiles, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Patrick Phibbs, 21 Matt Toomua, 22 Andrew Smith.
Chiefs: 15 Mils Muliaina (c), 14 Tim Nanai-Williams, 13 Dwayne Sweeney, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Romana Graham, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Aled de Malmanche, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Toby Smith, 17 Daniel Perrin, 18 Hayden Triggs, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 21 Jackson Willison, 22 Lelia Masaga.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mark Lawrence (South Africa), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)