Hopes of a perfect start to part one of Super Rugby ended with a sharp upper cut to the jaw for the Chiefs who were left bitterly disappointed after failing to front in a match many thought was a foregone conclusion.

Take nothing away from the Brumbies, they were utterly brilliant and their breaking of a 13-game drought against Kiwi opposition was entirely deserved.

The men from Canberra dominated possession, owned the territory stakes and convincingly won the battle of the breakdown.

What's more, the result is exactly what rugby in Australia needed and, you could argue, it's for the greater good of Super Rugby.


If their jubilant singing which came roaring out of the sheds post-match is anything to go by, the flight back across the ditch will be one to savour for the Brumbies.

The Chiefs were reduced to a chaotic mess in front of their home fans and have missed out on achieving their perfect start to the season.

Heading into the bye week undefeated is now just something that might have been.

Perhaps the loss of Luke Jacobson with a hamstring injury just 11-minutes into his return to top flight rugby was an omen for the fortunes they would ultimately have.

The loss of Luke Jacobson 11 minutes into his return seemed to be an omen for the fortunes of the Chief against the Brumbies. Photo / Jeremy Ward Photosport
The loss of Luke Jacobson 11 minutes into his return seemed to be an omen for the fortunes of the Chief against the Brumbies. Photo / Jeremy Ward Photosport

The simple fact is that you can't concede 26-points and expect to have a realistic chance at coming back and winning.

After 45-minutes, that's the exact position the Chiefs found themselves in, and ironically, that's when they started to play some half decent rugby.

Crash over tries to Aaron Cruden and Anton Lienert-Brown came far too late in the piece, and while the Chiefs can salvage some pride from their second half efforts, the damage had already been done and the loss confirmed.

A bitterly disappointed and noticeably upset Sam Cane confirmed as much when reflecting in the sheds after the game.


"Particularly in that first half we were a shell of the team that we have been for the first few weeks. We didn't have the right attitude and intensity which showed through ill-discipline and a lack of ability to hold the ball," Cane said.

Falling off a lot of first-up tackles, the Chiefs allowed their opponents to march down the field with relative ease on many occasions. When they did have possession, something that was fleeting at the best of times, the Chiefs looked disjointed and uncomposed.

You could have counted on one hand the number of times fans at FMG Stadium had the chance to get excited watching Damian McKenzie in space and the few touches that Sam McNicol did see of the ball in his big return out on the wing were met with an impressive Brumbies defence which never faltered, despite being a man down for 10 minutes.

The Chiefs will also rue more a than couple of missed opportunities to score, thanks to some 50/50 decision making when getting into the Brumbies red zone, and one odd decision to take a quick tap off a penalty despite the opposition defence being lined up and ready to go. Surely the better option would have been to go to a lineout and set up the play properly.

It was the little things like that which frustrated Cane who said that the simplicities of the game were made far more complicated by his side.

"We knew we were getting beaten up, rugby is a simple game but we weren't getting it right, I really hope we take as much as we can from this, you don't really want to lose to have to learn."


Yet that's the very challenge ahead for the Chiefs this week, learning lessons from a loss. Coach Warren Gatland said it would provide the opportunity for self-reflection, just not in the way they had hoped for.

"We need to go back and have a look at ourselves in terms of the contact areas and the breakdown, it's a tough competition and we wanted to win this game before heading into a bit of a break but we didn't front up tonight," Gatland said.

Despite the fact that the Chiefs now have a week off, the team will be back training for the first few days and will remain as a group but you sense that the last thing Cane, Gatland and co want right now is the reality of having to wait to put things right.

The Chiefs just got a quick and untimely gut check. It's something they have to front up and respond to, or this season could get out of hand really quickly.

Michael Pulman is a freelance journalist based in Hamilton.