Cruden steals late winner for Chiefs
All Black Aaron Cruden slotted a penalty right on full-time to secure the Chiefs a 19-17 win over the Brumbies in their Super Rugby Round Two match in New Plymouth on Friday.
The lead changed hands throughout the match, with the Brumbies taking an early lead the Chiefs claiming a narrow 13-11 lead at the break.
Going into the final quarter the Brumbies had worked themselves into a 17-13 lead, but two late penalties – in the 67th and 80th minutes – by Cruden saw the Chiefs snatch the win.
The Chiefs suffered a couple of setbacks before the game – with Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Cane withdrawing from the side, despite being named to start earlier this week.
The Brumbies were also missing injured skipper David Pocock for the fixture, a rematch of the 2013 Final – won by the Chiefs.
Pocock's replacement as captain, Nic White, was frustrated at losing a match that his team dominated for long periods, particularly at set pieces.
"We've got to learn to close out these games, I think maybe we thought we had it closed out too early but the Chiefs were here to play and that's what got them over the line," he said.
"I'm really proud of the effort but being proud doesn't get you four points."
A successful penalty by Brumbies centre Christiaan Lealiifano opened the scoring, but the Chiefs replied with one of their own shortly after through the boot of All Black Aaron Cruden – who was back in the starting line-up after sitting out last week's win over the Blues.
It was Chiefs midfielder Charlie Ngatai that scored the first try, with a burst of speed up the middle, that stretched the Brumbies defence too far.
The Brumbies then capitalised on being awarded a penalty, opting for a line-out and rumbling over – front row forward Scott Sio getting the armchair ride.
The Chiefs conceded nine penalties in the first half, and were issued with a warning from referee Steve Walsh to clean up their act.
However, it fell on deaf ears as they infringed early in the second half for the Brumbies to regain the lead.
It was then tit for tat between the two sides, who continued to run with plenty of pace, the points coming from penalty opportunities.
Neither side were able to take command of the game setting it up for a nail-biting finish.
The Chiefs threw everything they could muster at the Brumbies, but were unable to finish off their opportunities.
It eventually fell to Cruden to shoulder the pressure in the 80th minute when the Brumbies infringed at scrum time.
The All Black super-boot knocked over the winning points to finish the game and ensure the Chiefs remain undefeated after two rounds.
Man of the match: Jarrad Butler was the stand-out player in an impressive Brumbies team, while the Chiefs' big heroes all came off the bench. All Black Brodie Retallick, who came on a half-time, made a huge impact, while 19-year-old wunderkid Damian McKenzie was just as impressive after he took to the field in the final 15 minutes. However, we can't look past the match-winner – Aaron Cruden.
For the Chiefs:
Pens: Cruden 4
For the Brumbies:
Pens: Leali'ifano 3, White
Chiefs: 15 James Lowe, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (captain), 5 Michael Fitzgerald, 4 Matt Symons, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Ben Tameifuna, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Tevita Koloamatangi, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
Brumbies: 15 Robbie Coleman, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White (captain), 8 Ita Vaea, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy , 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Jordan Smiler , 20 Sean Doyle, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 James Dargaville, 23 Lausii Taliauli.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Shane McDermott (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)