The Brumbies will fly the Australian flag in the Super Rugby Pacific for another week after a comeback win in their quarter-final against the Hurricanes at GIO Stadium on Saturday night.
While the weekend spelled the end of the road for the NSW Waratahs and the Queensland Reds, the Brumbies recovered from a 10-point second-half deficit to win 35-25 and claim their spot in the final four.
They’ll now prepare for one of the toughest tests in rugby, a trip to Eden Park to battle the Blues for a place in the final.
They trailed 14-3 early and lost Len Ikitau to a red card, but coach Dan McKellar said his side had showed character to pull off the comeback.
“I’m just really proud … we spoke about resilience and it’s a big part of our club,” he told reporters.
“It’s one of our pillars, words on the wall don’t mean a whole lot but actions that we saw tonight mean so much.
“14-3 and a red card, it’s easy to get rattled and plenty of teams do but I could tell at halftime that they were fine.”
The Hurricanes had led 22-15 at the half after two tries and some lethal penalty kicking from Jordie Barrett, but a rare miss from the All Blacks star turned the contest on its head early in the second.
Noah Lolesio trimmed the margin to four points with a penalty on the hour-mark and they’d grabbed the lead soon after, a barging run from Nick Frost ending with fullback Tom Banks slicing through the line and scoring.
Tom Wright put it to bed in the 74th minute, cutting through off the back of another powerful maul, with Lolesio’s sideline conversion extending the lead to the final margin.
The huge result snaps the Brumbies’ three-game losing streak and has them dreaming of their first trans-Tasman title since 2004.
It’s also the first time they’ve beaten a New Zealand-based side in a playoff match since 2014.
McKellar said fixing up poor discipline that let the Hurricanes keep the points ticking over was key
“We just spoke about discipline at halftime and the message hasn’t changed too much,” he said.
“Once we got (inside opposition 22m) our conversion rate was phenomenal … in the end, that’s what won us the game.”
A not-so-secret weapon had emerged early in the contest, with Barrett drilling long-range kicks including from inside his own half, but the All Black star stepped it up further with a divine cross-field kick finding fullback Josh Moorby to score in the corner for an 11-3 lead.
The Brumbies had got on the board through a Lolesio penalty and showed intent with some big early hits but that proved a part of their undoing, with a Len Ikitau shoulder charge drilling Barrett and earning him a red card on 22 minutes.
Controversially, the Canes then lost Owen Franks from a high shot on Lolesio, but his was judged a yellow card rather than a red.
Folau Fainga’a and Irae Simone had scored back-to-back tries grab the lead, but the visitors went to the half ahead as Moorby doubled up in the corner.