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Brumbies break 15-year Crusaders curse to secure home play-off

By AAP
Noah Lolesio and Ben O'Donnell of the Brumbies celebrate victory during the round 13 Super Rugby Pacific match between ACT Brumbies and Crusaders at GIO Stadium, on May 18, 2024, in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The ACT Brumbies have secured a Super Rugby Pacific home play-off final after a last-minute penalty try ensured a gutsy 31-24 win over the Crusaders at GIO Stadium in Canberra.

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The game seemed set to end level until Quinten Strange conceded a penalty try in the last minute. The Crusaders lock intentionally knocked back a loose ball after Noah Lolesio’s side-line penalty goal attempt struck the upright.

The home side cemented third place with their win on Saturday – their first against their old rivals in 15 years.

The Brumbies’ defence was mostly steadfast against a determined Crusaders attack, which dominated territory for large stretches of the match.

But coach Steven Larkham will be concerned that his side let the opposition level the match late after leading from the 11th minute.

The Brumbies had a 10-point buffer coming out from halftime but a Noah Hotham try with 12 minutes left and a penalty kick from Chay Fihaki let the visitors level the scores.

It was an all-too-familiar feeling for the Crusaders, who have looked competitive throughout the season but remain second-bottom after just two wins.

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The Brumbies took the ascendancy after a forward pass denied Sevuloni Reece an early opening try for the Crusaders.

The home side’s dominant forward pack picked and drove their way irresistibly towards the tryline before Noah Lolesio lifted his head and found Andy Muirhead all alone on the right wing with a cross-field bomb to open the scoring.

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Soon after Brumbies fullback Tom Wright found himself one-on-one with Crusaders five-eighth Fergus Burke, who he left in his wake with a disdainful don’t argue on his way to the tryline.

But the Crusaders got themselves back into the game after Tamati Tua was sent to the bin for a high shot on Jone Rova.

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Crusaders fullback Johnny McNicholl made the most of the numerical advantage to get his side on the board with an overload on the left flank.

Wright scored his second of the night before Reece caught the Brumbies defence napping to scamper through for the first try after the break.

No.8 Rob Valetini went over in the second half to extend the Brumbies lead before the chaotic finish.

The win secures a home play-off final for the Brumbies after the fifth-placed Reds were beaten 29-18 by the Fijian Drua in Suva earlier on Saturday.

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5 Comments
m
monty 34 days ago

I would've expected a better turn around in response to the changes within the team and its management. Lacking in my opinion is the skill sets that once was and now seemingly vacant within the squads regular front runners. Furthermore there seems to be no set game plan, the accuracy that once was is no more, the quality off the bench were poor matchups and frankly I feel a lot has to do with the coaching. Never thought i’d be critising the sadas to this degree.

G
Geoffrey 35 days ago

They have been cruelled by injuries but almost nobody (Sevu Reece and Fletcher Newell big exceptions) has played above himself which regularly happened before. Surely Scott Robertson had maintained the recruitment programme and it looks like a reasonable squad. Last in this competition will stall a lot of careers. Penny seems likeable. But it’s not enough even though this was better.
We haven’t been good enough and it’s not helped by the “it’s been 15 years since… “etc “after nearly every match. Seems somehow a soft gifting of something once valuable. Kieran Read giving comments last week almost choked describing the easy surrender of possession by the forwards.
I’d love to think that the senior players some of whom are back can show enough pride in the jersey to test the Blues next week.

K
Kara 35 days ago

Always reluctant to blame a coach when losses rack up, but Penney must go.
The backline is dysfunctional and the coach must carry the can. No cohesion, no idea and in many cases, minimal skill. The trains out of Roma St depart faster than the ball from Crusaders’ set pieces. Wouldn’t be surprised if the forwards went on strike.

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