Defending champions the Chiefs looked anything but title contenders as they succumbed 41-23 to the rampant Brumbies in Canberra tonight.
The Chiefs were missing several key players out injured but lacked consistency and made far too many errors to test the runaway Australian Conference leaders. The turning point in the match came when replacement Chiefs winger James Lowe was yellow carded after a stupid leg trip, that cost his team 18 points when he was off and the game.
The Chiefs trailed the home team 13-6 at the halftime break after a messy opening 40 minutes dominated by unforced errors from both teams.
Conditions were good in Canberra but mistakes were plentiful, which unfortunately led to a number of scrums that nearly all took two or three attempts to set properly. This delay meant a lack of rhythm in the half and two outstanding backlines were left to twiddle their thumbs.
The only try of the half was scored by Brumbies first-five Matt Toomua, who showed his impressive strength to crash over with three Chiefs defenders hanging off him.
Bay of Plenty hooker Nathan Harris came on for Mo Schwalger on a concussion check, just before the break, and stayed for the rest of the match. Harris went well and he and the rest of the Chiefs pack could take heart from their dominant scrum and improved lineout performance in the second half.
The second stanza began promisingly for the Chiefs, with Anscombe kicking a penalty to close the gap, but the Brumbies scored soon after thanks to a brilliant catch and dive from winger Joe Tamane. The final pass to him looked forward but without a clear camera angle, the try stood.
The game really opened up after 50 minutes, with 26 consecutive phases as both teams had possession. Lowe was then yellow carded for his leg trip to gift the Brumbies a major advantage they took full toll of.
Halfback Nick White kicked a long range penalty for a 21-9 lead then used the extra man well to set up a try to centre Tevita Kuridrani. The big centre was in again after 60 minutes after the Chiefs dropped the ball again to gift possession away.
The Chiefs scored two consolation tries to lively replacement halfback Brad Weber and Steamers prop Josh Hohneck to close to within 13 points in the final 10 minutes, before Toomua intercepted a speculative pass after the siren and sprinted away to nab a double.
Brumbies 41 (Tevita Kuridrani 2, Matt Toomua 2, Joe Tamane,
tries; Christian Leali'ifano con, 2 pens; Nick White con, 2 pen) Chiefs 23 (Brad Weber, Josh Hohneck tries; Andrew Horrell 2 cons, Gareth Anscombe 3 pens). Halftime 13-6.