Blistering Brumbies smash up Chiefs
The Brumbies have ignited their Super Rugby season with a stunning eight-try display against the Chiefs, smashing the Waikato-based franchise 54-17 at GIO Stadium in Canberra.
After a first-round loss to the Melbourne Rebels, the Brumbies ran in five first-half tries on Saturday night en route to their first victory over the Chiefs since 2014.
Everything the home side touched in the first 40 minutes turned to gold, highlighted by fullback Tom Banks putting in an early contender for try of the season.
Banks cut his way through the Chiefs' defence from 25m, showing off his explosive pace to charge across for the Brumbies' second try in a move sure to catch the eye of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Winger Chance Peni was outstanding with two tries in his first Super Rugby game since April 2018 after he and Andy Muirhead had come into the starting side for injured pair Henry Speight and Toni Pulu.
Centre Tevita Kuridriani scored his second try in the dying moments, while hookers Folau Fainga'a and Josh Mann-Rea and flanker Lachlan McCaffrey all joined the party with a five-pointer apiece.
Captain and cancer survivor Christian Lealiifano turned back the clock with a brilliant display at five-eighth, matching up well with returning Chiefs star Damian McKenzie - and he, too, should be in World Cup discussions for later this year.
Following the end of the 2018 Super Rugby season, Lealiifano headed to play in the Japanese Top League with the Toyota Industries Shuttles and Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said Lealiifano had worked hard to return to an elite level.
"I don't want to embarrass him, but he's in good shape," McKellar said.
"He came back from Japan fit and sharp and his running game was outstanding tonight and that's always been his strength."
A modest Lealiifano played down his impact on the game.
"You're a lot quicker when you're on the front foot so the platform the forwards set was nice," Lealiifano said.
The victory was all the more impressive considering they were without star Wallaby David Pocock after the John Eales medallist was concussed against the Rebels.
It was a disappointing night for Chiefs captain Brodie Retallick in his 100th Super Rugby game, as the visitors slumped to their third-straight loss dating back to last year's quarter-final.
Their only tries came via Ataata Moeakiola and Samisoni Taukei'aho.