Chiefs Outmuscle Brumbies to set up All-Kiwi Super Rugby Pacific Final against Crusaders

Brodie Retallick of the Chiefs celebrates his try during the Super Rugby Pacific Semi Final match between Chiefs and Brumbies at FMG Stadium Waikato. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

By Sam Worthington, Nine Sports. The top-ranked Chiefs will play 11-time champions the Crusaders in an all-New Zealand final in the Super Rugby Pacific after beating the ACT Brumbies 19-6 on Saturday.

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All the points in the semi-final had come from penalty goals, four to Damian McKenzie for the Chiefs and two by Noah Lolesio for the Brumbies, until the veteran All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick scored the only try in the 77th minute.

Until then, the Brumbies’ defence had held on magnificently against steadily increasing pressure from the Chiefs. The Brumbies still were in the match when they trailed 9-6 after 57 minutes, and at 12-6 when McKenzie struck a magnificent goal from halfway.

The decisive moment came when the Chiefs’ replacement flyhalf Josh Ioane fielded a short clearing kick by the Brumbies and McKenzie sliced through a rare gap in the defence. He passed wide to winger Shaun Stevenson and when play came back to the goalline, Retallick was there to pick the ball up and score.

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“I feel like we’ve won in every way possible this season and that was just a helluva grind against a good Brumbies team,” Chiefs captain Brad Weber said. “It took 77 minutes and that’s when your big-time players step up.

“Damian through the middle and then Guzzler (Retallick) does what he does best. He’s still going at the 80th minute just as he is in the first minute. He’s got a helluva engine on him.”

The match began in heavy rain and continued on a wet field which dictated the style of play. It was in total contrast to the first semi-final in Christchurch on Friday, when the Crusaders beat the Blues 52-15.

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The two sides booted the ball more than usual on Saturday, with 30 kicks in play in the first 15 minutes alone. As the rain stopped, both sides carried and recycled the ball continually and with great precision in the conditions, 18 minutes elapsing before the first handling error occurred.

Both defences were tested throughout the 80 minutes and the fact that the only try of the match didn’t come until almost fulltime showed just how accurate and determined they were.

There were a few moments late in the second half that turned the match in the Chiefs’ favour. Trailing 9-6, the Brumbies decided to kick for touch from a penalty in the 64th minute and backrower Pita Gus Sowakula produced a brilliant play to disrupt the Brumbies’ lineout drive.

Had they kicked for goal from close range, the Brumbies might have tied the scores and made the last 15 minutes more tense for the Chiefs. But the home side began to gain momentum from that incident and it led to Retallick’s late try.

“We knew it was going to be a helluva of a wrestle. We said we were going to come over here and throw everything at it and we did,” Brumbies captain Nic White said. “They held on, we held on and it was always going to come down to one moment.

“They’re a very good side but we did everything we could out there.”

The Chiefs now host the Crusaders in Hamilton next Saturday. They last won the Super Rugby title when they beat the Brumbies at the same venue in 2013.

The Crusaders have won the last six titles in various formats and the final between the two best teams after the regular season is a promoter’s dream.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more than (a home final) and I’m stoked that it’s against the Crusaders too,” Weber said. “They’ve been the benchmark for about 90 percent of my career and if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.”