It turned out like Donkey Kong. The Super Rugby Pacific Final we all really wanted. Irresistible force against immovable objects. Perennial pretender against metronomic competitors. Or, if you prefer, blues against the Crusaders for all the marbles.
The Grand Final of Dreams (Apologies to the Chiefs Fans) began at Eden Park the following Saturday night, first with a great defensive performance from the Crusaders to crush the Chiefs 20-7 in Christchurch on Friday night and then a thrilling 20-19 Saturday night Bru’s thriller. Outfits win his home castle.
Leon MacDonald’s team did a tough job in front of a crowd of 26,900, like the Crusaders the night before, they hung with their toothpicks left goalless in the second spell. Two yellow cards in the second half gave Brumbis a route as they returned to the singles point at the last minute and it was Blues substitute Ufa Tungafasi who emerged as an unexpected hero when he rose to charge an attempted match – a win from Brumbis fly-half Noah Lolesio. Round.
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It was the Blues’ record 15th win in 2022 when they drove a wave of unprecedented momentum into their fifth (apt) grand final. This will be the third match-up between them and the Crusaders in the Shoppes clash, where the laser will sit one by one. The Red & Blacks won at Eden Park in 1998; Ox’s revenge by winning the same field in the 2003 final.
The Blues were brilliantly led by their two best backs, with great performances by Bouden Barrett and Raiko Ion. Wings Mark Telia and AJ Lam also joined the big shifts, and Finn Christie was great on a busy night. Napo Laulala did a great job for the home side and Tom Robinson caught stealing two huge lineouts to mark a great night’s work.
But the Brumbeys didn’t give up and almost stole the match through some outstanding play on their backs like Tom Wright, Tom Banks and Ira Simon and a pack that just wouldn’t be denied on the drive.
Brumbis made a perfect start when Simone inside the center gave the visitors a 7-0 start to their dream with a trivial defensive effort from 40-odd meters outside.
But the Blues settled in a slippery state, starting to rise to the top of the scrum and dominating the second quarter to run in two great attempts for a deserved 20-7 half-time lead. Ioane and Barrett, who combined for 123 first-half race meters, are featured in the rising finish.
Ion made the opening with a sky-scoring run for both try, Hoskins Sotutu first noticed, in the 23rd minute, when Stephen Perofeta made the ground from deep, Robinson and Raiko Ion chimed in, and rotated to No. 8 several times. Out of a tackle
Brumbies flyer scoring open
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In-form Wing Telia added a second and a half minutes after the break, after Rico Ion was released on the left again, Lam and Christie ran to the support line and did the rest to give Barrett and Peropheta Telia enough space. wriggle over
But it was the Brumbies’ second half, as Kurt Ecklund and Adrian were both sent off for injury, and substituted hooker Lachlan Lonargan twice tried to wire the contest.
Stealing Tom Robinson’s 73rd-minute lineout, ready for another drive on the Brumbis line. At 20-12 it’s all but sealed the deal for the home party.
Match rating: 8/10
Wet conditions and bets mean it’s always going to be less than free-flowing. But some of the skills on both sides were excellent, the physical commitment was right there and the Brumbiras were in a position to compete in the end.
The Blues have now got a crack at their first full Super Rugby title since 2003. To pick up silverware, though, they have to go beyond the powerful red-and-black machine. This is the signing final of this inaugural season of the Pacific Footy.
Bowden Barrett continues his royal look of 2022 with a command display. His touch, his running line, his kicking game, his positional staff … it was top notch because Blues No. 10 has confirmed that he has a remarkable career as he plays.
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