Chiefs go back-to-back over Brumbies
August 3, 2013
Liam Messam was named man of the match for the second successive grand final
© Getty Images
The Brumbies were poised to claim their third Super Rugby title, nine years after their previous final appearance, when they led 22-12 entering the final quarter, but the Chiefs changed their game plan, attacking more through pick and drives in the forwards when previously they had looked to stretch the challengers, and the defending champions scored two tries as they finished strongly to claim the silverware and become only the fourth franchise, after the Blues, Crusaders and Bulls, to claim back-to-back titles.
Brumbies captain Ben Mowen paid tribute to the Chiefs, saying of their go-ahead second try scored after Liam Messam had monstered Nic White with a game-changing ruck cleanout in the hosts' 22: "A couple of errors cost us a little bit of field position and the Chiefs ... they can sting you from anywhere."
"I thought for most of that game we were outstanding, and I'm proud of our guys," Mowen said.
Christian Leali'ifano scored the Brumbies' 22 points © Getty Images
"We led right from the start and for them to come from behind, it speaks loads about this Chiefs side: they're an outstanding champion side and they thoroughly deserve the title this year. Congratulations to them for what they've built the last two years; that's what we aspire to be."
Mowen denied the Brumbies' tough travel schedule had an effect in the final quarter after they had defeated the Cheetahs in Canberra then travelled to Pretoria for the semi-final against the Bulls before returning to Canberra and travelling on to Hamilton. "I don't know if it was so much the legs," he said. "There was a few decisions [by players] that definitely cost us."
Chiefs co-captain Craig Clarke said the strength of the team's bench had been critical in winning what he described as "a really tough final", with replacements Bundee Aki making the break that established the phase play from which Robbie Robinson scored their first try. "Our subs really made a difference for us," he said. "We were under our sticks there .. and made some inroads around the ruck and ended up getting that [first] try; we got a lot of energy from the bench."
The Chiefs celebrate their victory with a haka © Getty Images
The victory provided a fitting farewell for Clarke, Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga - who passed a fitness test on his injured ankle and started on the right wing - Brendon Leonard and Toby Smith, who ended their Chiefs careers as champions.
Brumbies coach Jake White said of his own departing hero, George Smith: "We would have liked to have given him a trophy and let him finish on a high note, but it wasn't meant to be. I'm very proud of the effort."
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie also praised his side's effort and determination while saying the victory had been more "nerve-racking" for the coaches than was the maiden title in 2012. "We always felt we had it in us," he said. "They are a special group. We got fantastic impact off the bench. That's probably the key for us. They did a great job for us and in the end that was probably the difference."
The Chiefs were chasing the game as early as the fifth minute, after Christian Leali'ifano landed the first of his five penalties. The Wallabies centre kicked another two penalties as the hosts gifted the Brumbies a 9-0 lead inside 20 minutes, but the Chiefs clawed their way back as the Brumbies conceded penalties at the breakdown and Aaron Cruden slotted three penalties.
Scott Sio produced a strong performance for the Brumbies © Getty Images
The Brumbies went to the sheds seven points to the good, however, after Leali'ifano scored a intercept try as a direct result of constant pressure on Chiefs scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow at the ruck. Leali'ifano struck again with the boot shortly after the resumption, and he and Cruden then traded penalties before the Chiefs decided to play more directly in the final quarter.
Messam scored off the back of a five-metre scrum before Aki carved open the visitors' defence, after Messam's hit on White, and Robinson raced 25 metres to score. Cruden, who endured a shaky night kicking for goal, missing two straightforward penalties and the conversion for Messam's try, converted Robinson's try then landed a penalty to put his side five points clear with just nine minutes to play - a margin they would maintain to the final siren.
The Chiefs overcame a strong challenge from the Brumbies (video available only in Australia)
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