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Blues to host Super Rugby Pacific final after edging Brumbies in one-point thriller

By AAP
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

New Zealand’s stranglehold on the Super Rugby Pacific will continue for another year after the Blues snuffed out the hopes of the remaining Australian side, beating the Brumbies 20-19 at Eden Park.

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The Brumbies took a 7-0 lead after three minutes only to concede the next 20 points before staging a brave second-half fightback.

Two rolling-maul tries for Brumbies’ substitute hooker Lachie Longergan created a grandstand finish, with flyhalf Noah Lolesio having a drop goal charged down in the game’s dying seconds.

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It clears the path for the Blues to host the Crusaders in the final next weekend, while it was a 13th unsuccessful attempt by an Australian side to win a playoff game in New Zealand.

Flyhalf Beauden Barrett was in impeccable touch, constantly creating opportunities for the Blues while flawless in defence and running for 99m.

The Brumbies made a flying start with centre Irae Simone bursting through the Blues’ line off the back of a scrum and running 40m to score easily for a 7-0 lead.

 

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The Blues found their feet with two penalties and dragged the score back to 7-6, their backs catching fire and combining brilliantly to find a try for Hoskins Sotutu on 24 minutes.

Barrett looked unstoppable and jinked his way around multiple Brumbies defenders before creating an opportunity for Mark Telea to score for 20-7, and only the crossbar denied the flyhalf a long-bomb drop goal on halftime.

Blues’ hooker Kurt Eklund was sin-binned for a dumping tackle on Andy Muirhead and the Brumbies tried to make immediate use of the man advantage through Tom Banks, but Barrett was once again on hand to deliver a try-saving tackle in the corner.

The Brumbies’ patient, powerful rolling maul finally broke the line with Lachie Lonergan diving over on the hour, while only some elite desperation from Tom Wright denied Barrett a Blues’ try immediately after.

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Searching to reduce the deficit, Brumbies’ substitute Sosefo Kautai forced a penalty at the breakdown and they repeatedly threatened the line off the back of their maul, although staunch Blues’ defence somehow kept the margin at more than a converted try.

In a thrilling finish, Lonergan barged over for his second try on 77 minutes, with Noah Lolesio’s conversion cutting the Blues’ lead to a point.

But he couldn’t seal the deal with the subsequent drop goal attempt.

Barrett was easily the best player on the field, constantly creating opportunities for the Blues while flawless in defence and running for 99m.

“I’ve got a lot of trust in the lads, we’ve got to give it to (the Brumbies), they could have easily run away with that one,” Barrett told Stan Sports.

“We knew we had to fight hard and work hard together to close that out.

“Those sort of moments (Tuungafasi’s chargedown) you’ve just got to be alive for and look for … his edge is exceptional and we needed the big fella to stand up in that moment.”

While the Blues were dominant in most areas, they were brutal at the scrum and their pack forced four penalties.

They struggled with discipline in the second half, conceding eight penalties to four and they were perhaps lucky not to receive a yellow card for the repeated fouling.

Blues 20 (Tries to Hoskins Sotutu and Mark Telea; 2 conversions and 2 penalties to Stephen Perofeta)

Brumbies 19 (Tries to Irae Simone and Lachlan Lonergan (2); 2 conversions to Noah Lolesio)

– Alex Mitchell

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M
Mzilikazi 7 hours ago
Swashbuckling Hurricanes and Harlequins show scrum still matters

I always enjoy a good scrum based article. Thanks, Nick. The Hurricanes are looking more and more the team to beat down here in Australasia. They are a very well balanced team. And though there are far fewer scrums in the game these days, destructive power in that area is a serious weapon, especially an attacking scrum within in the red zone. Aumua looked very good as a young first year player, but then seemed to fade. He sure is back now right in the picture for the AB’s. And I would judge that Taukei’aho is in a bit of a slump currently. Watching him at Suncorp a few weeks ago, I thought he was not as dominant in the game as I would have expected. I am going to raise an issue in that scrum at around the 13 min mark. I see a high level of danger there for the TH lifted off the ground. He is trapped between the opposition LH and his own powerful SR. His neck is being put under potentially dangerous pressure. The LH has, in law , no right to use his superior scrummaging skill….getting his head right in on the breastbone of the TH…..to force him up and off the ground. Had the TH popped out of the scrum, head up and free, there is no danger, that is a clear penalty to the dominant scrum. The law is quite clear on this issue: Law 37 Dangerous play and restricted practices in a scrum. C:Intentionally lifting an opponent off their feet or forcing them upwards out of the scrum. Sanction: Penalty. Few ,if any, referees seem to be aware of this law, and/or the dangers of the situation. Matthew Carly, refereeing Clermont v Munster in 2021, penalised the Munster scrum, when LH Wycherly was lifted very high, and in my view very dangerously, by TH Slimani. Lifting was coached in the late ‘60’s/70’s. Both Lions props, Ray McLouglin, and “Mighty Mouse” McLauchlan, were expert and highly successful at this technique. I have seen a photo, which I can’t find online atm, of MM with a NZ TH(not an AB) on his head, MM standing upright as the scrum disintegrates.

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