CA Brumbies cling to finals hopes

 The CA Brumbies continue to walk the finals tightrope after claiming a bonus point from their 10-7 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton tonight.

The three-point defeat lifts the CA Brumbies into the Investec Super 14 top four but they must now await the outcome of matches featuring the Crusaders, Waratahs and Sharks to fall their way.
Against one of the competition’s most potent attacking outfits, the CA Brumbies turned in a superb second half defensive effort with the majority of the term played in their own quarter. However, despite repelling each Chiefs attacking raid, they did concede one Stephen Donald penalty goal which would ultimately prove the difference between the two sides.
CA Brumbies Head Coach Andy Friend said he was proud of his side’s tireless defensive display.
“I haven’t seen the tackle stats but I’d suggest we did 90 percent of the tackling,” he said. “I just said to our boys that not one of them should have their heads down. They were brave in the effort out there, they put a lot of energy into that, they showed a lot of character, we’ve put ourselves in the top four and we’ll have to see what the rugby gods can do for us.”
The CA Brumbies’ quest for a bonus point win to all but guarantee a finals berth was dealt a blow prior to kick-off with the wet weather settling in at Waikato Stadium.
With points at a premium, the CA Brumbies were denied an early Matt Toomua drop goal and with Donald and CA Brumbies winger Stirling Mortlock both having penalty goal attempts waved away, the nil-all deadlock would not be broken until 34th minute. The five-pointer was sparked when fullback Adam Ashley-Cooper fended off one defender down the left-hand flank and grubbered the ball into the Chiefs’ in-goal with winger Francis Fainifo winning the race to the ball.
However, the visitors’ seven-pointer merely ignited the Chiefs’ attacking machine and it took just three minutes to respond. Fullback Mils Muliaina cut down the right hand side only to be grassed a metre short by a superb Mortlock covering tackle. Unfortunately Mortlock’s heroics only put a temporary delay on the Chiefs opening try, with Donald burrowing across at first receiver from the ensuing phase.
With the half-time score locked at 7-all, the home side continued to ask questions of the CA Brumbies’ defence in the second stanza. However, time and time again the ACT-based side came up with the answer with their constant scrambling defence on the try line reflecting the stakes on offer in Hamilton.
The New Zealander’s best try-scoring chance of the second half came when Callum Bruce swooped on a Brendon Leonard charge down and raced for the posts only to be denied by a miraculous diving tackle by Ashley-Cooper just a metre shy of the line.
The CA Brumbies’ constant and tireless defensive effort did take its toll with Huia Edmonds’ yellow card ruck offence in the 68th minute presenting Donald with the penalty goal to break deadlock.
The CA Brumbies were presented with their first attacking raid into the Chiefs’ half just 40 seconds from full time, however, a failure to put the ball over the touchline from a penalty effectively ended their chances.
CA Brumbies captain Stephen Hoiles said he was hopeful of his side repeating their last-minute victories over the Highlanders, Crusaders and Bulls.
“We’ve done it a few times this year and I thought that if we got down there we might be able to pull another rabbit out of the hat but it wasn’t to be,” he said.
The CA Brumbies must now sweat on the Crusaders failing to net a single point from their encounter with the Blues, while the Waratahs and Sharks cannot register more than one competition point if the Canberra side is to figure in the finals.
Chiefs 10 (Stephen Donald try; Stephen Donald 1/1 conversion, 1/3 penalty goal) defeated CA Brumbies 7 (Francis Fainifo try; Stirling Mortlock 1/1 conversion, 0/1 penalty goal, Matt Toomua 0/1 drop goal) at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.
Referee: Stu Dickinson (Aus)
Half time: 7-all
Crowd: 17,058
CA Brumbies
1. Ben Alexander
2. Stephen Moore
3. Guy Shepherdson
4. Ben Hand 
5. Peter Kimlin
6. Julian Salvi
7. George Smith 
8. Stephen Hoiles (c)
9. Patrick Phibbs 
10. Matt Toomua 
11. Francis Fainifo
12. Tyrone Smith
13. Stirling Mortlock
14. Clyde Rathbone
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper
16. Huia Edmonds
17. Salesi Ma’afu
25. Sitaleki Timani 
19. Henry Vanderglas
20. Joshua Holmes
21. Afusipa Taumoepeau
22. Sanualio Afeaki
21. Afusipa Taumoepeau for 11. Francis Fainifo (45th minute)
17. Salesi Ma’afu for 3. Guy Shepherdson (50th minute)
16. Huia Edmonds for 2. Stephen Moore (62nd minute)
20. Joshua Holmes for 9. Patrick Phibbs (62nd minute)
2. Stephen Moore for 6. Julian Salvi (69th minute)
6. Julian Salvi for 2. Stephen Moore (69th minute)
1. Ben May
2. Aled de Malmanche
3. James McGougan
4. Craig Clarke
5. Kevin O’Neill
6. Liam Messam
7. Tanerau Latimer
8. Sione Lauaki
9. Brendon Leonard
10. Stephen Donald
11. Sitiveni Sivivatu
12. Callum Bruce
13. Dwayne Sweeney
14. Lelia Masaga
15. Mils Muliaina
16. Hika Elliot
17. Sona Taumolo
18. Toby Lynn
19. Serge Lilo
20. Toby Morland
21. Mike Delany
22. Sosene Anesi