Rugby: Stunning Chiefs crush Brumbies

By Kris Shannon

Brumbies 23 Chiefs 48
Aaron Cruden was at his brilliant best in the Chiefs' win over the Brumbies. Photo / Getty
Aaron Cruden was at his brilliant best in the Chiefs' win over the Brumbies. Photo / Getty

If tonight's top-of-the-table encounter was a potential preview of the Super Rugby final, then hand the Chiefs the title now.

Dave Rennie's side triumphed in a fourth different country in as many weeks, unleashing yet another electrifying attacking performance to thump the Brumbies 48-23 in Canberra.

The Chiefs simply don't score boring tries. They exceeded their pre-match average of 40 points per game by crossing six times tonight, each as brilliant and breathtaking as the last.

This was meant to be a battle between the best attack in the competition and one of the top defences. But it was a mismatch. No side, when the Chiefs were playing at such a tempo and with such skill, would have been able to cope no matter their defensive proficiency.

While the fleet feet of the men on his outside have hogged the headlines this season, Aaron Cruden was at his match-winning best throughout. The first five directed his attack all evening, as he has adeptly all the campaign, but he also added a dash of magic that created three tries.

James Lowe was the beneficiary of two pieces of Cruden genius, with the wing proving a constant menace with his feet and his boot down the left flank. Damian McKenzie was his exemplary self - scoring his seventh try in six matches - but the efforts of the playmakers was only one aspect of the Chiefs' ascendancy.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the number of internationals stocking both teams' back rows, the breakdown was a highly intense battle throughout, with neither side guaranteed to recycle possession when they took it into contact.

There were penalties, the ball popped out in unexpected places and both sides won plenty of turnovers. Which, as they have shown throughout the season, is often where the Chiefs' attack as at its most dangerous.

One steal led to a straightforward try to Toni Pulu that opened the visitors' account and, more often than not, the Brumbies were made to pay when they committed the golden error of gifting the Chiefs possession.

Their tries, all of which belonged on a highlights reel, came courtesy of attacks that were both unpredictable and entirely expected. Expected, because scoring stunning tries is what this Chiefs team do, whether they're enjoying dominance in the match or, like in the first half, spending plenty of time on the back foot.

And unpredictable, because the Brumbies' defence would still be scratching their heads at what they could have done differently to halt the Chiefs' charge. Receiving the ball inside their own territory, Rennie's men would embark on some attacking raids that brought barely a single regulation pass, finding success with one-handed offloads and inside flicks to take defenders out of the game.

Their support play and improvisation was especially effective as they took a 20-13 lead to the halftime break, playing with a level of instinct that left the Brumbies' defence struggling to forecast what was coming next.

Generally, what came next was another display of ball-handling, between both backs and forwards, that would make an opposing coach weep. But the Chiefs were also capable of building pressure through the basics, kicking and chasing well to regularly peg the home side back inside their 22.

The Brumbies used their formidable set piece to keep them in the contest until the final quarter, yet it did them little good. A team needs much more than that to beat the Chiefs in this mood. In fact, when they're playing like last night, that could be just about impossible.

Brumbies 23 (S. Fardy, S. Sio tries; C. Lealiifano 3 pens, 2 cons)
Chiefs 48 (T. Pulu, J. Lowe 2, T. Sanders, B. Weber, D. McKenzie tries; D. McKenzie 3 cons, 4 pens)
HT: 13-20

- NZ Herald

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