The Brumbies’ hopes of a top-two finish are over, after losing 37-24 to the Crusaders in the final round of the Super Rugby season.
Needing a win for the chance to overtake the NSW Waratahs on top of the Australian conference, the Canberra-based outfit couldn’t withhold the might of their New Zealand rivals at GIO Stadium in front of a 18,378 fans on Saturday.
A first-half brace to giant winger Nemani Nadolo helped ensure the Crusaders sent off All Black legends Richie McCaw and Dan Carter winners in the last Super Rugby appearance.
The Brumbies were without David Pocock for the entire second half after he failed a concussion test, and were reduced to 14 men with the sin-binning of Jesse Mogg shortly after the break.
Winger Henry Speight was also taken off with an apparent shoulder injury in the final 10 minutes.
While the Brumbies remain equal on points with the NSW Waratahs ahead of their clash with the Queensland Reds later on Saturday, one less wins means conference honours will remain with the Tahs.
Depending on the weekend’s other results, the Brumbies will next week play either the Stormers in Cape Town or the Waratahs in Sydney.
The Brumbies took less than three minutes to draw first blood, their trademark rolling maul gifting Pocock his eighth try of the season.
The Crusaders hit back moments later after a Kieran Read intercept set up Nadolo in the left-hand corner.
It made Nadolo the franchise’s first player to score in five consecutive games.
Two penalty goals to Dan Carter on either side of a successful Brumbies attempt gave the visitors a narrow 11-10 lead, which they extended to 16-10 on the half-hour mark via Matt Todd try.
But it was Nadolo’s solo effort just before the break that provided one of the highlights of the afternoon, keeping himself and a pinpoint grubber inside the white line for try No.2.
A concussed Pocock only added to the pain of the 21-10 scoreline, with the openside flanker taken off just before the half-time siren.
It only got worse on the restart, with fullback Jesse Mogg sin-binned for a deliberate knock-down.
There was a glimmer of hope after the Crusaders’ Simon Whitelock was also yellow-carded, leading to a Jarrad Butler try.
The momentum continued to flow their way with a converted penalty try – off yet another rolling maul – in the 66th minute to close the gap to 27-24.
But that was not enough to stop the visitors, who got a penalty try of their own.