The Brumbies qualified for the Super Rugby play-offs at the Force's expense with a 47-25 win in Canberra on Friday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
This was effectively a knockout match, with the Brumbies aiming to finish in the top six for the third consecutive season and the Force for the first time in their history.
The result, though, was all but confirmed by half-time when the hosts led 21-6. Matt Toomua scored two excellent tries, the first when he beat two defenders before going over in the left-hand corner and the second when he ran onto a deep pass and left two forwards for dead. Jesse Mogg then crossed the line just before the break, following a good run from Clyde Rathbone down the left touchline.
Christian Lealiifano missed all three conversions, but was on target with two penalties, while the Force's points came from the boot of Jayden Hayward.
Any hopes the visitors had of staging a miraculous comeback evaporated four minutes into the second half when Henry Speight scored the Brumbies' bonus-point try after brushing off three weak tackles (the Force would miss 21 in the match).
Pek Cowan crashed over for a Force try, which was followed by a yellow card for Jarrad Butler, but the Brumbies struck back with 14 men when Toomua got his hat-trick.
The Force did take advantage of their numerical superiority when Dane Haylett-Petty kicked ahead, and while he was tackled without the ball, it bounced up nicely for Chris Tuatara-Morrison. However, that good work was undone when Chris Alcock knocked on near halfway and Joe Tomane sprinted away for the Brumbies' sixth try.
Zack Holmes got the Brumbies third, with seven minutes to go, but the hosts rounded off a comprehensive win when Tom McVerry went over.
The five log points take the Brumbies to fourth spot on the combined log, and they will host a qualifier play-off if the Highlanders lose to the Crusaders on Saturday. The Force, meanwhile, will look back on their best-ever Super Rugby campaign with pride, but also with some regret having lost two of their last three matches when a play-off spot was theirs for the taking.
Brumbies – Tries: Matt Toomua (3), Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Tom McVerry. Conversions: Christian Lealiifano (3). Penalties: Lealiifano (2).
Force – Tries: Pek Cowan, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Zack Holme. Conversions: Jayden Hayward, Luke Burto. Penalties: Hayward (2).
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 10 Matt Toomua, 11 Clyde Rathbone, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Leon Power, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Ruaidhri Murphy, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 JP Smith, 19 Fotu Auelua, 20 Tom McVerry, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Joe Tomane, 23 Pat McCabe.
Force – 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Dane Haylett-Petty, 13 Solomoni Rasolea, 12 Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles,1 Pek Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Chris Alcock, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Sias Ebersohn.
Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty Images