Brumbies end Chiefs' season in a thriller

16:02, Jul 20 2014
Aaron Cruden
Aaron Cruden barks out a play call during the Chiefs Super Rugby opener against the Crusaders.
Israel Dagg
Chiefs players Charlie Ngatai and Mils Muliaina attempt to bring down Israel Dagg.
Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs players Augustine Pulu and Tim Nanai-Williams jump high for a high-ball against the Crusaders.
Robbie Fruean
Chiefs centre Robbie Fruean has a barnstroming game against his former Crusaders team.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow runs onto Waikato Stadium to face the Highlanders.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam runs into the tackle of Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Chiefs fullback Tim Nanai-Williams glides through a gap in the Highlanders defensive line.
Chiefs fans
Chiefs fans enjoyed a two-point victory against the Highlanders.
Michael Fitzgerald
Chiefs lock Michael Fitzgerald charges forward at the Highlanders.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow sprints away from a scrum.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe cuts through the Stormers' defence late in the game.
Aaron Cruden and Jean de Villiers
Aaron Cruden brings down Stormers second-five Jean de Villiers.
James Lowe
Chiefs wing James Lowe confronts the Stormers defence.
Tom Marshall
Tom Marshall toes the ball on in the Chiefs' impressive win over the Stormers.
2014 Chiefs season
Caille Visagie and Dean Greyling of the Bulls tackle Tom Marshall of the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld.
2014 Chiefs season
Prop Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs tries in vain to keep the ball under control against the Bulls in Pretoria.
Ben Tameifuna
Chiefs halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow tries to make a break against the Bulls in South Africa.
2014 Chiefs season
Jacques Du Plessis of the Bulls crashes trough the Chiefs' defensive line.
Chiefs 2014 Season
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick lines up Cheetahs hooker Adriaan Strauss for a hard tackle.
Chiefs 2014 season
Michael Fitzgerald makes a charge for the Chiefs against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Chiefs 2014 season
Gareth Anscombe chases down a loose ball against the Cheetahs in South Africa.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs halfback Augustine Pulu looks to offload after being grounded by the Melbourne Rebels' defence.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall on the charge for the Chiefs against the Rebels in Hamilton.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge against the Rebels at Waikato Stadium.
Chiefs 2014 season
Sam Cane in action against the Melbourne Rebels.
Chiefs 2014 season
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs looks for support in the tackle of Kieran Reid of the Crusaders.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs loses possession in the slippery conditions during the Chiefs and Crusaders match.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs takes a high ball under pressure from Johnny McNicholl of the Crusaders.
Chiefs 2014 season
Christian Lealiifano of the Brumbies is tackled during their match against the Chiefs.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tevita Koloamatangi of the Chiefs is tackled during their match against the Brumbies.
Chiefs 2014 season
Liam Messam of the Chiefs runs the ball during their match against the Brumbies.
Chiefs 2014 Season
Gareth Anscombe of the Chiefs scores a try in the tackle of Franco Mostert of the Lions.
Chiefs 2014 season
Tim Nanai-Williams of the Chiefs scores a try against the Lions in Hamilton.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna makes a charge at the Lions defence during their Super Rugby clash.
Chiefs 2014 season
Chiefs prop Jamie Mackintosh puts the head down to make some hard yards for his team against the Lions.
2014 Chiefs season
Fireworks go off at Yarrow Stadium ahead of the Chiefs' home clash with the Blues in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Tom Marshall, centre, is congratulated by teammates after scoring a try for the Chiefs against the Blues in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Chiefs fans delighted to get the chance to cheer their team on in New Plymouth.
2014 Chiefs season
Liam Messam, right, asks referee Mike Fraser to go to the TMO during the Chiefs' clash with the Blues.
Chiefs vs Waratahs
The Chiefs put the pressure on the Waratahs' Jacques Potgieter in New Plymouth.
Chiefs vs Waratahs
Kurtley Beale and Wycliff Palu take down Chiefs fullback Tom Marshall at Taranaki Stadium.
Conrad Smith
Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith makes a pass during his side's clash with the Chiefs.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams is tackled by Dane Coles.
Brodie Retallick
Brodie Retallick runs it against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow
Tawera Kerr-Barlow flicks a pass out during the Chiefs' clash with the Waratahs.
Aaron Cruden
Chiefs first-five Aaron Cruden attempts to sidestep a tackle during his side's clash with the Waratahs.
Tanerau Latimer
Tanerau Latimer of the Chiefs makes a break during his side's Super Rugby clash with the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki of the Chiefs looks to take the high ball during his side's 29-25 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Tim Nanai-Williams
Tim Nanai-Williams scores a try for the Chiefs during their round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Gareth Anscombe
Gareth Anscombe of Chiefs on the attack during his side's round 17 Super Rugby match against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Asaeli Tikoirotuma from the Chiefs during his side's 24-16 win over the Hurricanes in Hamilton.
Hadleigh Parkes
Hadleigh Parkes from the Hurricanes celebrates a try during his side's Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Ben Tameifuna
Ben Tameifuna of the Chiefs steps out of the tackles of Ardie Savea (left) and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen of the Hurricanes during his side's round 18 Super Rugby win in Hamilton.
Jeremy Thrush
Jeremy Thrush of the Hurricanes charges into Liam Messam of the Chiefs with the assistance of Ben Franks (left) during the round 18 clash between the two sides at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Ardie Savea
Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes is tackled by Chiefs captain Aaron Cruden during the round 18 fixture at Waikato Stadium.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs lock Brodie Retallick reaches for the ball.
Brodie Retallick
Halfback Tawera Kerr Barlow topples over in the Chiefs' round 19 Super Rugby game against the Blues.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs first five Aaron Cruden barks orders at his team during their Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park.
Brodie Retallick
Chiefs players Aaron Cruden and Tim Nanai-Williams share their joy at making it to the Super Rugby playoffs after beating the Blues at Eden Park.
Brodie Retallick
Good sportsmanship was on show after the Chiefs beat the Blues at Eden Park with Bundee Aki sharing a moment with Ma'a Nonu.
Bundee Aki
Bundee Aki runs into the Brumbies defence at GIO Stadium.
Pat McCabe
Brumbies second-five Pat McCabe is lifted off his feet in a Chiefs tackle.
Pauliasi Manu
Pauliasi Manu illustrates the Chiefs' disappointment at the final whistle.
Ben Tameifuna
Chiefs prop Ben Tameifuna on the charge.
Liam Messam
Liam Messam brings down Brumbies No 10 Christian Lealiifano.
Augustine Pulu
Augustine Pulu looks to break a Brumbies tackle.

The ACT Brumbies moved a step closer to a third Super Rugby crown by dashing the Chiefs' attempt to secure a record-equalling three-peat with a dramatic 32-30 victory in their elimination final in Canberra tonight.

Buoyed by the potential of avenging their loss in last year's final in Hamilton, the Brumbies extended a proud record against the Chiefs in the Australian capital by backing up their 41-23 win on Anzac Day with a far more significant victory after surviving a bold comeback from the defending champions.

Australia's most successful franchise now faces the challenge of either ending the NSW Waratahs' dreams of celebrating a maiden championship on August 2 - or prolonging the Crusaders title drought to six years by ending their campaign in Saturday's other semifinal.

The Chiefs, seeking their first win at GIO Stadium since 2008, and just third win in nine away games this campaign, came up short, meaning a host of departing players, including veteran flanker Tanerau Latimer plus backs Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Bundee Aki, leave the franchise on a disappointing note.

By exiting the title race, the Crusaders (1998-2000) remain the only franchise to win three consecutive finals - that achievement was never in danger of being matched early as a vibrant Brumbies constructed an ultimately decisive 19-point lead inside 25 minutes of ruthless efficiency.

The Chiefs were thoroughly outplayed for the bulk of the opening half but displayed the resilience associated with their reign by almost forcing the contest into extra time.

Unfortunately Aaron Cruden was unable to slot a sideline conversion after Gareth Anscombe dived across in the corner to set up a finale that hardly seemed possible following the Brumbies initial dominance.

The Chiefs are the most heavily penalised team in the competition and despite coach Dave Rennie appealing pre-match for Craig Joubert not to treat his players by reputation they were a man down inside five minutes after Tim Nanai-Williams was yellow carded for cynical play at a ruck as the Brumbies looked poised to score.

The centre's indiscretion only delayed the inevitable after a secure close range lineout and maul opened up a blind for Nic White to exploit with ease and then the Wallabies halfback initiated the Brumbies second try when he instigated a long range effort from Robbie Coleman after fielding a Dwayne Sweeney chip in his own half.

Christian Leali'ifano, who was kicking at only 49 per cent, slotted both conversions to underscore the Brumbies dominant start.

The Brumbies had 75 per cent possession before Nanai-Williams returned and surprised the Chiefs with an expansive game plan based around the explosive running Henry Speight, an automatic choice for the Wallabies once the Fijian meets residency requirements in September.

Once restored to their full complement there was no respite for the Chiefs who were breached again after repelling 16 phases when Jesse Mogg crossed in the left hand corner.

Starved of possession and trapped in their own half as the Brumbies surged to a 22-3 lead, the Chiefs at least trimmed the deficit when Bundee Aki was unstoppable from close range after the home side were stressed for the first time in the 35th minute.

The Chiefs, who missed 28 tackles in the first half, also survived an onslaught either side of the halftime hooter after the Brumbies turned down a kickable penalty in search of another demoralising seven pointer.

A penalty soon after halftime was an encouraging start but Cruden's real influence was in general play as he set aside first half frustrations with a commanding third quarter as the Chiefs capitalised on the sin binning of Speight for a Nanai-Williams-style infringement in the 58th minute.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow emulated counterpart White by crossing from the resulting penalty and then Nanai-Williams levelled the scores at 25-25 while Speight spectated when he atoned for his down time with a scything run to the corner.

Cruden missed the extras and although Leali'ifano was wide with a handy penalty the Brumbies regained the lead in the 61st minute when Wellington-born flanker Jarrad Butler touched down amid a stunning rolling maul.

Butler's first Super Rugby try had an element of luck as the Brumbies opted against a three pointer because Leali'ifano was being treated for cramp.

He recovered to nail the conversion but the Chiefs refused to yield and had a chance to push a gripping contest into extra time when reserve back Gareth Anscombe squeezed over in the corner.

Cruden needed to convert his toughest kick of the night to square the ledger with 3min 30 remaining but it drifted wide before the Brumbies found field position for the last, crucial, time.

ACT Brumbies 32 (Jarrad Butler, Robbie Coleman, Jesse Mogg, Nic White tries Christian Leali'ifano 3 cons 2 pens) Chiefs 30 (Bundee Aki, Gareth Anscombe, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tim Nanai-Williams tries Aaron Cruden 2 cons 2 pens) at GIO Stadium. Referee: Craig Joubert. Crowd: 14,284

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