The Plus500 Brumbies have booked their place in the Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU Grand Final thanks to a hard fought 21-9 victory against a gutsy Western Force side.
Blindside flanker Rob Valetini’s inspiring Man of the Match performance, first half tries to Tom Wright and Tom Banks plus three second half penalty goals got the job done for the Brumbies, the Force resilient despite losing Toni Pulu to a red card on the stroke of half time.
The opening exchanges reflected the piece as a whole, the Brumbies dominating possession and territory but unable to break down a dogged Force defence.
Handling errors halted the Brumbies momentum at various points in the contest, and though they camped inside the Force 40 metre zone for the lion's share of the first half, it was the visitors who would score first through the boot of Domingo Miotti.
That seemed to spark the Brumbies, Wright crossing for the opening try mere minutes later off some beautiful hands from Valetini.
Lolesio’s touchline conversion gave the home side a deserved early lead. Then came the contest’s most controversial moment, as former Brumby Pulu saw red for a high-shot on Irae Simone.
The Brumbies exploited the missing winger brilliantly before the half time bell, Len Ikitau sending Banks over untouched for the second and final try.
12-5 after the missed extras was a fair reflection of the Brumbies superiority in the first half, though they had been forced to work hard for their points by the brave Perth side.
The second half continued much in the vein of the first, with the Brumbies controlling territory but unable to provide the finishing blow.
Miotti’s second penalty goal meant the Force actually clawed back on the scoreline while down to 14, Wright denied what would have been a try of the year contender by a shave of his left boot.
The Brumbies stuck to task, and with debutant Luke Reimer reaping havoc at the breakdown, the side added three penalty goals inside the final 20 minutes to seal a 21-9 win at home.
The Brumbies booking a chance to win back-to-back titles with a spot in the Super Rugby AU Grand Final against the Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
Plus500 Brumbies 21 (T: Wright, Banks; C: Lolesio; P: Lolesio; R Lonergan 2) def Western Force 9 (P: Miotti 3)
The Plus500 Brumbies will play the Queensland Reds in the Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium in Canberra on Saturday May 8 at 7:45pm AEDT. LIVE and AD FREE on the new Home of Rugby, Stan Sport and simulcast on 9Gem.
Book your spot to Brisbane on the Brumbies Charter Flight here.