Chris Dutton July 14, 2012
The ACT Brumbies' finals dream is over after Super Rugby results in South Africa this morning relegated them to seventh on the ladder and out of title contention.
The Brumbies were forced into a nightmare overnight wait after they lost to the Auckland Blues at Canberra Stadium yesterday.
They started the weekend preparing to play a home final next Saturday, needing to beat the Blues or lose by seven points or less to advance to the finals for the first time since 2004.
But it all turned sour with a 30-16 defeat.
The Queensland Reds then leaped over them into top spot in the Australian conference and the Brumbies relied on favourable results in South Africa to hold on to a finals spot.
However, the Durban Sharks beat the Free State Cheetahs and the Pretoria Bulls beat the Johannesburg Lions.
The results crushed the Brumbies' finals hopes.
Instead of charging to the title, they will be licking their wounds this morning after surrendering their title hopes.
The Brumbies were at the top of the Australian conference for four months and only stumbled at the final hurdle.
Coach White was shattered when the Reds collected a bonus point and had all but conceded his team would not be playing finals when he spoke to The Sunday Canberra Times before the South African matches had started.
''I said it would be a failure if we didn't make the finals [and I stick by that],'' White said last night.
''No one remembers where you came the year before and whether you've had a great year and come seventh or eighth - it's irrelevant.
''You want to make sure you win. If we don't get into the play-offs, it would be a failure because we were so close.''
The Brumbies were holding slim hope results in South Africa would go their way.
It was the situation they least expected to be in as they ran on to their home ground for their last regular season match against a team which had won just three games all year.
But the injury hit and star-laden Blues shocked everyone in a dominant 14-point win.
The Brumbies' composure and ability to execute under pressure had seen them lead the Australian conference for almost four months.
Henry Speight tried to spark the ACT team into action with a brilliant solo try.
With time running out the Brumbies were still within striking distance of stealing a losing bonus point, but they failed to deliver.
The Blues threw the Brumbies hopes of redemption and a stellar revival under White into disarray with their dominant win.
The loss was punctuated by a woeful defensive effort. The Brumbies missed 38 tackles in their biggest defeat of the year.
Conversely, everything went right for the lowly Blues.
They threw miracle passes, ran the ball from everywhere and looked unstoppable. The Brumbies resembled a casualty ward after the match.
Joseph Tomane reinjured his ankle and played just 30 minutes, Dan Palmer has a problem with his foot, Ben Alexander withdrew before kick-off and Zack Holmes nursed a shoulder injury through the match. But White and captain Ben Mowen said injuries were no excuse for the performance.
''Our attitude was definitely off … defence is about attitude and it comes down to how much you want it,'' Mowen said.
''What's done is done, we have to sit back now and wait. We'll all be severely disappointed [if we don't make finals] … were desperate [to play again].''
The Brumbies first campaign with White at the helm has been outstanding. Few expected them to be in finals contention, but the no-name squad has proved everyone wrong. Missed penalties hurt their chances of gaining a losing bonus point, with four attempts failing.
AT A GLANCE
AUCKLAND BLUES 30 (Liaki Moli, Daniel Braid, Hadleigh Parkes tries; Piri Weepu 3 conversions; Piri Weepu 2 penalties, Michael Hobbs) bt ACT BRUMBIES 16 (Henry Speight try: Zack Holmes conversion; Zack Holmes 2, Jesse Mogg penalties) at Canberra Stadium yesterday. Crowd: 14,111. Referee: Jonathon Smith.