The University of Canberra Brumbies have stormed into the Super Rugby Finals after a commanding 47-25 win over the Western Force in Canberra on Friday night.
In what shaped as a do-or-die match for both sides, the UC Brumbies managed to cross the line seven times including a hat-trick to Matt Toomua, the first for a Brumby since Mark Gerrard in the 2004 Super 14 Final.
In an entertaining, end-to-end match which featured 10 tries all up, the UC Brumbies managed to capitalise on almost all their opportunities reversing a disappointing result against the Waratahs in Sydney two weeks ago.
UC Brumbies Director of Rugby Laurie Fisher said it was a pleasing result.
“It’s amazing what you can get out of one week’s preparation and one game and we’ll come out of this game on a tremendous high,” Fisher said.
“That win will stand us in good stead moving forward. It’s pleasing to see good players playing well. We’ve had a pretty massive injury toll all week so when you go to a big game like a few weeks ago with eight Wallabies out it’s not easy.
“So to have a few of those guys back certainly made a big difference.”
While the Force turned the screws early after regaining the initial kick-off, it was the UC Brumbies who took first blood turning defence into attack and marching the length of the field to score through Matt Toomua.
Toomua collected the ball from 15 metres out but dragged a host of would be defenders over the line to score his sixth of the season.
A penalty attempt from White went wide, as did the conversion from Lealiifano. But the inside-centre was able to nudge the UC Brumbies ahead by eight just minutes later with a kick which raised the flags.
Trading penalties the Force got back within two points at 8-6, but another three-pointer from Lealiifano and a second show-and-go try from Toomua gave the UC Brumbies breathing space with 12 minutes left in the half, 16-6.
Four minutes from the bell Jesse Mogg put a strangle hold on the lead for the UC Brumbies, collecting a nice inside ball from winger Clyde Rathbone to dart over left of the posts. The kick was away but the UC Brumbies headed to the sheds 21-6 up.
The second half started with plenty of action, as 21 points were tallied inside the first 15 minutes.
The first came when Henry Speight showed why he’s the most in-demand winger in the country, flying down his wing and past Nick Cummins to score a magic try.
At 28- 6, the Force eventually rallied to score a try through Pek Cowan but the celebrations were short lived for the West Australians as Toomua claimed his third try to push the UC Brumbies to a 35-13 lead.
For Toomua, it was the icing on a polished performance in both attack and defence – his hat-trick the first for a Brumby since Mark Gerrard in the 2004 Super Rugby Final.
Jarrad Butler was sent to the bin for a yellow card, creating space for the Force and they scored two minutes later through Chris Tuatara-Morrison.
But once again the UC Brumbies tormed back into the contest, this time though Joe Tomane who scooped on some loose ball and ran 40 metres to put the result out of doubt, 42-18.
Former Brumby Zak Holmes kept the Force in touch with the West Australian’s third try in the right corner. But it was the UC Brumbies and veteran Tom McVerry who would have the last laugh, the replacement loose forward trucking over from a maul to give his side a convincing victory and place in the 2014 Super Rugby Finals.
UC Brumbies 47 (Matt Toomua 3, Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Joseph Tomane, Tom McVerry tries; Christian Leaiifano 2 penalties, 3 conversions) bt Force 25 (Pek Cowan, Chris Tuatara Morrison, Zack Holmes tries; Jayden Hayward 2 penalties; Hayward, Sias Ebersohn conversions) at Canberra Stadium on Friday night. Referee: Steve Walsh. Crowd: 11,742.
1. Scott Sio (replaced by JP Smith)
2. Josh Mann-Rea (replaced by Ruaidhri Murohy)
3. Ben Alexander (replaced by Ruan Smith)
4. Sam Carter
5. Leon Power (replaced by Fotu Auelua)
6. Scott Fardy
7. Jarrad Butler (replaced by Tom McVerry)
8. Ben Mowen ©
9. Nic White (replaced by Michael Dowsett)
10. Matt Toomua (replaced by Pat McCabe)
11. Clyde Rathbone (replaced by Joe Tomane)
12. Christian Lealiifano
13. Tevita Kuridrani
14. Henry Speight
15. Jesse Mogg
16. Ruaidhri Murphy
17. Ruan Smith
18. JP Smith
19. Fotu Auelua
20. Tom McVerry
21. Michael Dowsett
22. Joe Tomane
23. Pat McCabe