7/22/2013

Brumbies lifted by fans in first final in nine years


It was the first time in nine long Super Rugby seasons Canberra footy fans had the chance to witness Super Rugby finals again, and boy did they let that be known.

Right from the opening of the gates at 1:30, the blue and yellow ocean current flowed into the inner bowl at Canberra Stadium, at a steady increase right up until kick off.

And despite the weather delivering a cold front which saw the afternoon temperature rise to just nine degrees, the almost 15,000 strong fans still showed their faith in what they had been waiting far too long to see.

But what the fans delivered at the home semi final against the Free State Cheetahs on Sunday would have been nothing short of inspirational for a Brumbies side that has worked so tirelessly to finally feature in the business end of the season again.

"We've had great support from the Canberra community throughout the year," said Brumbies skipper Ben Mowen.

"We get stopped on the street and congratulated and wished well, and there's a real connection with the way the program [for Brumbies players] is set up."

 Of course, all the hype surrounding the event was well documented in the local and national media, and one would have had to have been living under a rock to miss it.

And well done to the Canberrans for following this.

They made sure to take advantage of the lack of Cheetahs fans too, with vocals coming out in various forms, from deep male voices abusing the referee for contentious decisions, to high pitched female voices trying to scream Henry Speight over the line.

The game was marketed well too, with television ads featuring Brumbies players, and lower class tickets sold for $28.80 with children and students paying just $13.20 and $15 respectively.

A great incentive again taken well by the Brumbies' strong support base.

As one walked through the gates at both the eastern and western sides of Bruce, one was greeted by a sea of yellow, with all sorts of merchandise for sale and an abundance of match program sales, charity donations and competition raffles.

It was certainly an improved home atmosphere for the Brumbies, and one they would have experienced very few times since May 22 2004- their last home final.

While Sunday's game did not have quite as much importance as that 47-38 grand final win by George Gregan's men nine years ago, throughout gameplay the crowd showed the opposite.

One crucial moment in the game saw the Brumbies defending their own line after consecutive penalties to the Cheetahs, and with just four minutes left on the clock, Canberra Stadium stood as one.

As the flame jets fired, the crowd chanted their beloved team to hold the Cheetahs off when they only needed a converted try to level the scores.

And just moments later as the Cheetahs lined up a conversion to save their season, the booing of the crowd may just have aided the missed attempt.

The fans rode the wave of every point scored, or even only almost scored, by the home side, and full credit to them. In fact, Mowen had no doubt in his mind this helped carry them over the line.

"I think there was only 15,000 [crowd] but awesome noise every time we did something good. They're [fans] a huge part of our good home record here," said Mowen.

While a home grand final is still a possibility, it was a performance well done by the Canberra region's rugby fans in what could have been the signing off for 2013.