ACT Brumbies will host the Super Rugby AU grand final in Canberra after shaking off a gritty Western Force to earn a 31-14 victory in the penultimate round on Friday night.
The Canberra club moved to 28 competition points on the back of the win to secure the decider, seven points clear of nearest rivals Queensland – who have a bye this round – with only a maximum of five points on offer in the final regular match.
The leading side will advance straight through to host the grand final on Sept 19 against the winner of the qualifying final between the second and third-placed teams the week prior.
“It’s really special (to host the grand final),” Brumbies skipper Allan Alaalatoa told Fox Sports. “We try not to think about that and try to execute our game plan but we need to continue to build momentum next week against the Reds.”
While the Brumbies may have clinched the result they were after, they were made to work for it by the fearless West Australian side who scored first in the eighth minute through Fergus Lee-Warner.
Super Rugby AU | Brumbies v Force – Rd 9 Highlights
It might have been one-sided on paper, but it took a big second half from the ladder-leading @BrumbiesRugby in Canberra to see off a gallant @westernforce.#SuperRugby #SuperRugbyAU #BRUvFOR pic.twitter.com/RN5pNnxR45
— Super Rugby/TRC (@SuperRugby) August 28, 2020
The home side really only broke free in the 65th minute when replacement back Len Ikitau scored for a 22-14 lead, with winger Andy Muirhead crossing late for their fifth try to secure a bonus point.
The Brumbies led 10-7 at half-time, with classy Wallabies half-back Nic White a stand-out after replacing Joe Powell early in the second half.
White fired a pass for a 50-minute try to flanker Will Miller and then put Ikitau across when he took control with a quick tap before finding his man, with the Force defence caught short.
Amy Perrett, the first female to referee a Super Rugby match, had her hands full in the first half when the Brumbies had two tries disallowed within two minutes for a knock-on and then obstruction.
They got third time lucky four minutes later through Tom Wright to trail 5-7 and edged ahead just before half-time when full-back Tom Banks scored his first try of the Super Rugby AU.
Force skipper Ian Prior lamented another fade-out but was pleased with the way they responded after a 52-point thrashing by Queensland. “We were pretty gutted with the result tonight – same thing again – a couple of crucial penalties there… swings the momentum of the game,” Prior said.
“I’m really proud of the effort the boys showed as we were hurting after last week’s result and I’m really proud of the way we bounced back.”
— Plus500 Brumbies (@BrumbiesRugby) August 28, 2020
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