Stirling Mortlock was the mountain the Chiefs could not conquer in Canberra, with the inspirational Brumbies captain monumental in ensuring a 28-26 Brumbies win in their Vodacom Super 14 match. The Brumbies led 13-9 at halftime.
Mortlock’s sideline conversion in the 72nd minute statistically proved the difference, but his overall contribution could not just be measured in statistics. Mortlock set up Mark Gerrard’s match-winning try, against the run of play, after the Chiefs had applied sustained pressure. But he still had to kick a very difficult conversion to give the home team a two point cushion. He did so easily, but then spent the next eight minutes leading a huge defensive effort to ensure the two points would be enough for victory.
It should not have been because the Chiefs can rightfully feel robbed after referee JC Fortuin ruled a Chiefs knock-on with two minutes to play when replays showed a Brumbies forward deliberately knocking the ball down. The penalty from 20 metres out and right in front should have been to the Chiefs and Stephen Donald, with just one 50 metre miss on the day, would have kicked it with his eyes closed.
The Brumbies escaped, but still their defensive effort was not over. The Chiefs kept on attacking and Sivivatu came close to scoring. Again Mortlock made the tackle that mattered, although Fortuin also ruled a forward pass. It was another debatable decision in a match where there were too many contenious calls from the South African official.
Mortlock scored the first try of the match and fittingly for the Brumbies he had the last say of the match.
The Chiefs will rue this missed opportunity. They dominated possession by 65 percent to 35 percent. They controlled the tempo of the match, played most of the match in the Brumbies half and Donald at flyhalf played a very influential role in keeping the pressure on the home team.
Fortuin’s rulings at the lineout, where he was inconsistent with the gap, gave the Chiefs an advantage and put the Brumbies lineout under pressure. The Brumies lost five lineout balls to the one of the Chiefs. Fortuin was strict at the breakdown and Marty Holah and George Smith cancelled out any kind of momentum in the first hour. Both gave away many penalties, but they also did outstanding openside work.
The Chiefs forwards were the better in contact, but average in the scrums where they lost the advantage a few times in crucial field positions.
The Brumbies took full advantage every time, but aimless kicking from George Gregan and Stephen Larkham put the Brumbies under considerable pressure.
Gregan and Larkham were heroic in defence and Larkham’s ability to break the line was again a standout feature when he carved the Chiefs to pieces to put the Brumbies in a position of attack, which ultimately led to the field position for the final score. But both were poor with their general kicking game.
In the end it was left to Mortlock to produce the moments that mattered, in attack, in defence and with his goalkicking. It was the complete performance from one of the game’s most destructive midfielders.
Tries: Stirling Mortlock, Rathbone, Gerrard
Convs: Mortlock (2)
Pens: Mortlock (3)
Tries: Davidson, Sivivatu
Convs: Donald (2)
Pens: Donald (3)
Moments that matter
1st minute: Chiefs kick the ball out on the full from the kick-off.
2nd minute: Chiefs lose their first lineout. Not a great start for the Kiwi visitors.
3rd minute: First scrum of the match and Bill Young is penalised by SA referee JC Fortuin. Chiefs go on the attack and win their own lineout, but it is static ball. Messy start from Chiefs, but they have won another penalty. This time for offside. Donald kicks for posts from 40 metres. Hits the post but it goes in. 1/1. Donald comes into the match with a 72 percent success rate. 3-0 to Chiefs.
6th minute: Chiefs penalised for closing the gap at lineout. From free kick Brumbies take the scrum and attack. Chiefs penalised for not rolling away at the ruck. Stirling Mortlock, given the goalkicking duties ahead of Mark Gerrard, takes aim from 30 metres. Over. 1/1. 3-all.
8th minute: George Smith loses the ball from kick-off, puts his team under pressure and the Chiefs maximise from the attack. Brumbies penalised at the ruck. Donald cracks it over from right in front. 2/2. 6-3 to Chiefs.
10th minute: Very stop start kind of game. No team getting any form of continuity or momentum. This time it is the Brumbies who win the penalty after a high tackle from Nutbrown on Rathbone. Surprisingly, Mortlock misses from right in front and from 20 metres out. 1/2. Still 6-3 to Chiefs.
15th min: This time it is Ben Castle (Chiefs tighthead who is penalised at scrum time). Brumbies kick to the corner and attack. But the Brumbies stuff it up from a first phase movement. Awful start from Brumbies in perfect afternoon conditions. Scrum to Chiefs and the home teams shocks them by turning over the scrum feed! Another chance to attack and Larkham shows the perfect pass from the scrum. Finds Stirling Mortlock, who runs in unopposed from 30 metres. Go you good thing. That’s fantasy points for the Mortlock clang. 8-6. Mortlock lines up the conversion. Angled conversion and it’s over. 2/3.
19th min: Gregan puts the Brumbies on attack with a fine attacking kick. Chiefs under pressure in their own 22. Brumbies win the lineout. The home team break the gain line easily, Mortlock goes close and so does Ashley-Cooper. Then Chisholm goes over, but the referee calls the Brumbies back. So far four missed tackles to the Brumbies and three to the Chiefs. Scrum to Chiefs on their goalline and they win the penalty at the scrum.
25th minute: some poor handling by both teams. Loads of knocks and very messy at scrum time. Chiefs have the scrum feed in Brumbies half. But they are struggling to break the gain line and predictably the Brumbies have won the turnover. It could be a long afternoon for a Chiefs side looking as ordinary as they did in South Africa at the start of the tournament.
27th minute: Donald penalised for a high tackle on Mortlock. Brumbies kick to the corner, but are sloppy in their execution and they lose the throw. Chiefs ball on their own 22.
Play goes back to Chiefs 10-metre area with Donald’s clearing kick. Brumbies win a very messy lineout and now start to drive it up. Mortlock strong on attack again, but Chiefs have stolen the ball atthe breakdown. Chiefs counter attack. Sivivatu makes some yards, but Tuitupou stuff it up with a kick out on the full. Poor option from the former All Blacks and Blues centre. One-dimensional and it showed.
30th minute: Brumbies lose another lineout throw, their third from six throws. Chiefs have won their four so far. Fortuine is not policing the gap in the lineout consistently and when the Chiefs do close it they contest successfully.
32nd minute: Chiefs win a penalty because of a technical infringement at scrum. Donald from 30 metres out to close the gap. 3/3. 10-9.
34th minute: Another mess from the kick-off. Then Lauaki penalised for taking out Larkham off the ball. Penalty to Brumbies. Mortlock kicks for goal from 30 metres. Over. 3/4. 13-9
36th minute: Penalty to Brumbies from a lineout infringement.
37th minute: Penalty to Chiefs from a lineout infringement. It has been that kind of game. It has never got going because neither side has had possession for a sustained period. Chiefs knock the ball on with another untidy attack. They just can’t bring their dangerous back three into the game.
40th minute: First half ends as it started with a scrum. From the attack, Brumbies win a penalty and Mortlock decides he will have a crack from 55 metres. It is more a kick made out of hope than conviction. Why oh why Stirling. That’s just cost 10 points on the fantasy league! 3/5
41st minute: Larkham kicks-off and the first two minutes are dominated by the Chiefs, who attack strongly through their midfield. Chiefs close to scoring. Attacking around the fringes. Proves effective. Replacement prop Davidson dives over. Try. 14-13. Donald’s conversion is over.
43rd minute: Chiefs are in front. 16-13.
44th minute: From kick-off Marty Holah gives away a stupid penalty. Coming in from the side for no reason whatsoever. Mortlock slots it over from straight in front. 4/6.
45th minute: 16-all.
46th minute: Mortlock’s having a huge game. Another decisive tackle forces turnover. Brumbies can attack. Put the mockers on him. He just coughed up a ball and Chiefs get the penalty. They take it quickly, trying to up the tempo of the game. Last 30 minutes set up nicely.
47th minute: Another penalty at the breakdown, this time to the Chiefs. Holah and Smith are having a great contest, but each is giving away plenty of penalties. Chiefs kick to the corner to attack from the lineout. Chiefs get a roll on, mauling well. Held up just five metres short. Now it goes to the backs. Great tackle from Mortlock. Still the Chiefs attack and it is oh so easy. Sivivatu carves up the defence, beating Rathbone’s tackle and then having too much pace to beat the covering tackle of three others. 21-16.
48th minute: Donald converts. 5/5. 23-16.
50th minute: Straight from the kick-off, Brumbies win the penalty. Right in front with Holah penalised again. Brumbies don’t kick for posts.
52nd minute: They decide to go for the lineout. Play goes right and then left and are rewarded. Mortlock straightens the line superbly, gets the go forward and from the quick recycled ball Clyde Rathbone scores, having come off his wing. Great try. Brumbies rewarded for their positive play. 23-21. Mortlock lines up touchline conversion. Misses. 4/7
56th minute: 23-21 to Chiefs.
57th minute: Brumbies lose Ashley-Cooper to injury. Chief launch an attack with a big bomb. Knock on and feed to Chiefs. Brumbies force turnover from scrum.
58th minute: Chiefs are doing well. They certainly are doing more than just hanging in. They have the momentum and it will need something special from the Brumbies to take this one. The home team has had no continuity and Holah has done a fantastic job in slowing down the Brumbies ball from phase play.
61st minute: Sensational break from Larkham and he looked a dead cert for a try. Last ditch ankle tap from Mils does just enough to wobble the flying Larkham. He stumbles and falls 10 metres from the tryline. Scrum feed to Brumbies, 10 metres out. Brumbies attack but lose the ball. Chiefs counter attack through Lauaki, but he did not have support. Gerrard made a superb tackle, but conceded a penalty. Donald has a snap from 50 metres. Just to the left. His first miss of the night. 5/6.
65th-68th minute: Chiefs are dominating possesion and field position. They are on the attack and have a 61 to 39 percent possession advantage at this juncture. Chiefs are also taking the ball through phases, six, five and four in succession from three moves. Chiefs got the penalty, but Donald decides to go for the drop and succeeds.
70th minute: 26-21.
71st minute: Mortlock forces the knock-on from kick-off and Brumbies can attack. They get a free kick and take the quick tap. Brumbies are now on attack. Mortlock again makes the difference. He breaks the line, offloads to brilliantly to Mark Gerrard, who scores despite a desperate tackle from Sivivatu. 26-all. Mortlock’s kick to come from the touchline. Sensational kick. (5/8)
72nd minute: 28-26 to Brumbies.
74th minute: Chiefs on attack in Brumbies half. Chiefs still the team with momentum. Penalty to Chiefs from 55 metres. Donald questions time. Ref tells him five minutes. He opts for the kick to the line. Chiefs on the attack, just 20 metres out.
76th minute: Sivivatu threatens to score. Great tackle from Mortlock, but referee had also ruled a forward pass. Brumbies still under pressure. Still in Brumbies half. Lineout to Chiefs. Visitors attack. Big tackle from Gregan. Chiefs should have been given a penalty right in front. No one picked it up. Brumbies got out of jail there. Ref rules knock on to Chiefs. Shocking call.
79th minute: Desperate times now from Chiefs. Donald tries a drop goal from 40 metres and it is a shocker. From restart Chiefs attack. They win the penalty after the hooter. And attack. Sivivatu attacks and now the Brumbies are hanging on. From phase play Chiefs drop the ball and the Brumbies attack. Rathbone has the chance to score against the run of play. He just doesn’t have the legs, but forces a penalty. Brumbies have had enough. They kick it into touch and finish the game.