The sublime and the ridiculous - once again the Chiefs showcased their excruciating inconsistencies, going down to the Brumbies 20-28 in their opening Super rugby match tonight at Canberra Stadium.
Three butchered tries in a bizarre two-minute time frame while prop Nathan White was in the sinbin proved the ultimate penalty for the Chiefs as they failed to regroup after gifting the Brumbies an 18-point head start.
Rehabilitated All Blacks wing Sitiveni Sivivatu and a spectacular solo effort from replacement halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow provided the Chiefs with a glimmer when trimming margin to three entering the final quarter but stand-in Brumbies captain Matt Giteau's third penalty and a close range from Salesi Ma'afu suggested the Chiefs would head home empty handed.
However, the Chiefs teased and tormented to the last, replacement wing Lelia Masaga crossed after the hooter but Tim Nanai-Williams could only direct the angled conversion on to the right hand upright to deny the visitors a bonus point.
Chiefs captain Mils Muliaina pinpointed the trio of missed opportunities while a man down as a decisive factor -- though the Chiefs' shonky set piece was also a source of self-inflicted damage.
"We put ourselves in good positions and we didn't capitalise on those chances and you can't afford to do that against a team like the Brumbies," said Muliaina, who was guilty of bombing the first try-scoring opportunity.
He couldn't handle a Nanai-Williams pass with the line looming in the 15th minute; lock Craig Clarke then sabotaged the next Chiefs attacking raid when he could not link with his support, then Nanai-Williams marred an otherwise impressive performance when losing control of the ball over the line after minimal contact.
Considered third favourites to top the Australian conference behind the Waratahs and Reds, the two-time champion Brumbies initially resembled their illustrious predecessors of 2001 and 2004.
They totally dominated the opening quarter and a four-try bonus-point seemed inevitable before their intensity and accuracy dropped either side of halftime.
Former All Blacks captain Tana Umaga's return to Super rugby was a pre-match focal point but it was his marker Robbie Coleman, an Australian sevens star 17 years his junior, that stole the first half limelight.
Coleman scored the opening try in the ninth minute -- a fine individual effort from 35m when he scooped up a ball spat out the back of a breakdown and scythed through a gap before wrong footing Muliaina with a sharp change of direction.
Coleman's weaving run was converted by Giteau, further reward for the Brumbies during prop White's temporary suspension for impeding halfback Josh Valentine at a ruck on the Chiefs line.
Impressive wing Francis Fainifo then added the Brumbies second in the 20th minute when he catching the Chiefs short-handed down the blindside.
The Chiefs' defensive lapses and inept finishing was also compounded by a creaky scrum; hooker Aled de Malmanche also had a difficulties targeting his jumpers in the lineout.
Yet despite those deficiencies the Chiefs gradually clawed back into the contest -- Stephen Donald got them on the board with penalty shortly before halftime then Nanai-Williams facilitated a simple touchdown for Sivivatu in the 52nd minute.
Umaga and Brendon Leonard were dragged off by head coach Ian Foster in the 48th minute and although the former All Blacks halfback was visibly unhappy, Kerr-Barlow's injection was justified when he collected his own chip kick and slid over despite being sandwiched by four Brumbies defenders.