Brumbies' road to victory only gets tougher

DAVID BARBELER
Last updated 19:37 28/07/2013
Brumbies
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FINALS BOUND: Stephen Moore celebrates with George Smith after the Brumbies beat the Bulls to reach the Super Rugby final.

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The Brumbies will look to back up one of their greatest ever performances with a feat in this week's Super Rugby final that no other side has ever accomplished.

Becoming the first Australian or South African team to win a finals match in New Zealand after a staggering 18 failed attempts.

The Brumbies became the first ever team to beat the Bulls in a finals game at the hostile Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria on Sunday morning when they snatched a miraculous last minute victory.

Having lost an early ten-point lead, the ACT franchise was down by four points with 90 seconds to go when five-eighth Matt Toomua broke the line and slipped a match winning pass to centre Tevita Kuridrani.

It was only the three-time title winning Bulls' third loss against Trans-Tasman teams at home in 25 matches.

However the Brumbies will face a statistically much tougher challenge this Saturday when they travel around the world to play defending Super Rugby champions the Chiefs in Hamilton - who beat fellow New Zealanders the Crusaders 20-19 just hours earlier.

There have been 28 finals matches played in New Zealand since Super Rugby began in 1996.

Only twice has the away team prevailed and both times that was New Zealand's Crusaders (1998 and 1999).

The 1999 championship winning Crusaders outfit was also the only team in Super Rugby to win the title from outside the top two.

And only the 2000 Crusaders team has won a grand final in a foreign country.

Yet Brumbies coach Jake White has no doubt his third-placed finishing side can rewrite the history books.

"I'm under no false illusions that it's never been done before," the World Cup winning coach said.

"But there's a lot of things that haven't been done by teams before and the Brumbies have done them week-in, week-out."

"Who knows, this is a special group of players. Two years ago no one gave us a chance."

The Brumbies have had a remarkable turnaround over the past month - let alone the last two years.

Following their historic win against the British and Irish Lions in June, the ACT franchise slumped to a stagnant loss against the lowly Western Force in the final round of Super Rugby.

Their uninspiring win against the Cheetahs in Canberra for the finals qualifier last weekend only increased the number of pundits writing them off as genuine title contenders.

But the Brumbies bounced back hard on Sunday morning, an ecstatic White saying he and assistant coach Laurie Fisher both rated the miraculous escape as "the greatest win the Brumbies have ever had".

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"It's got to be," he said.

"I spoke to (man-of-the-match) George Smith after the game and he said he's never experienced anything like that in his life.

"We defended and defended and the law of averages told us we were going to get out of our half and have one crack at getting the win. And then it happened."

- AAP

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