HAMILTON, New Zealand (AP) — The ACT Brumbies enhanced their image as a potential championship-winning team when they beat the Hamilton-based Chiefs 38-21 on Saturday in Super Rugby Pacific.
The Brumbies have now won three straight matches against New Zealand teams but made their loudest statement by becoming only the second Australian team in nine years to beat the Chiefs at home.
Every aspect of the Brumbies' play is practiced and well-honed. Their lineout drive is unmatched in Super Rugby and when scrumhalf Nic White stands over the ball at the breakout each Brumbies player snaps into place like a cog in a well-oiled machine.
The match was close for much of its duration but the Brumbies had advantages in possession in both halves and their execution, especially in the opposition 22, was irresistible.
“We'd spoken about the intensity we would have to go up,” Brumbies' captain White said. “We'd had a couple of good wins but they were at home. It's very tough to come away and win.”
White gave the Brumbies their first points with his first try of the season, slipping down the blindside. But the Chiefs quickly equalized with center Alex Nankivell's sixth try of the season.
The Brumbies led 18-14 by halftime and expanded that lead with an early second-half try to center Len Ikitau.
A try to backrower Pita Gus Sowakula kept the Chiefs in the game until the Brumbies made the win safe with a try to replacement hooker Billy Pollard.
In other matches Saturday, the New South Wales Waratahs rallied from 17-0 down after 21 minutes to beat Moana Pasifika 26-20 and the Christchurch-based Crusaders beat the Western Force 53-15.
A week after beating the 12-time champion Crusaders in Sydney, the Waratahs had to wait until the 61st minute to take the lead for the first time against a team placed last after 11 rounds.
Winger Dylan Pietsch went over at the end of a sprawling counter-attack to give the Waratahs their first lead which they held for the remainder of the match and which gave them their first win in New Zealand since 2015. Moana Pasifika were hot on attack in the dying moments of the match but weren’t able to break down the Waratahs’ rugged defense.
A late scrum penalty allowed the Waratahs to clear the ball from their own goal line and they were able to eventually work the ball to touch from the ensuing lineout.
“It was really tough,” Waratahs captain Jake Gordon said. “Moana came out of the blocks really well, which we expected."
Moana Pasifika began well and retained the upper hand for most of the first half. The Waratahs had closed their early lead to 17-14 by halftime and were stronger in the second half, though Auckland-based Moana never were out of the match.
“We had our chances, we had our opportunities and unfortunately weren’t able to convert at the end there,” Moana Pasifika captain and former Waratahs and Wallabies star Sekope Kepu said.
At Perth, Western Australia, Tonga-born outside back Leicester Fainga’anuku scored three first-half tries to give the Crusaders an 18-10 lead over the Force after 40 minutes. But flanker Fergus Lee-Warner scored a converted try two minutes into the second half to pull the Force to within three points.
But from that point, it was all Crusaders. Fullback Will Jordan scored two quick tries to give the visitors a 32-15 lead. He added a third with 20 minutes left, and the Crusaders went on to win for the eighth time in 11 matches.
On Sunday, the Hurricanes host the Fijian Drua at Wellington to conclude the 12th round.
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